"Come on, this is our table, over here." Obie said excitedly as he led the three women toward Cabin 1's dedicated table.
"We wouldn't want to interrupt anyone while they're eating." Cynthia quietly objected.
"That's okay. It looks like we have lots of extra room today. These are some of the people I live with, they'll want to meet you." Obie said confidently.
The three women exchanged uncertain looks, but none seemed willing to contest Obie's assertion.
"Guys, I think you all saw Mrs. Morrow in our classroom this morning, she drove me over to Amos' house after class today. And these are Amos' parents, Mrs. Russell and Mrs. Morrison." Obie said seriously to his classmates.
After a moment of uncertainty, all the boys gave an obligatory greeting.
"This is Simon, Arlo, Mouse, and Luke. We all live in cabin one. They helped me to find Amos... erm, Erin." Obie said happily.
"It's very nice to meet all of you." Cynthia said on behalf of her companions.
"Go ahead and sit down with us. It looks like Erin and Mike are going to be busy for a few minutes." Obie said frankly.
Everyone turned and saw the two nearly identical boys talking a mile a minute to each other, oblivious to everyone and everything around them.
Since there was more than enough room for the three women at the table, none of them could find a socially acceptable reason to decline.
"Do all of you like meatloaf?" Mouse asked as he stood from his place at the table.
Cynthia looked from Julie to Paula to gauge their reactions. Since neither was giving an indication of disapproval, she hesitantly said, "I believe so."
"Good. We're going to get you some food. We'll be right back." Mouse happily announced, then dashed away before anyone could say or do anything.
Luke looked at the three women's surprised expressions and gave them a small timid smile before getting up to follow Mouse.
"Do any of you want coffee or tea or anything? We usually just have water with dinner." Obie asked seriously.
"I would like some coffee, if it wouldn't be too much trouble." Paula said honestly.
"It's not. That's why I asked." Obie said simply, then looked at Julie and Cynthia to see what they would like.
"Water will be fine." Julie said quietly. Cynthia nodded her agreement to the statement.
As soon as Obie had received the answer to his question, he took off like a shot toward the kitchen.
There was a long moment of silence at the table while both Julie and Paula were nervously watching their son talk with his newly discovered brother. Finally, Cynthia quietly asked, "How do you boys like it here?"
"I've never had a home before, but I imagine that this is what it must be like." Simon said frankly.
The three women were stunned by Simon's bleak answer.
"These people provide us the necessities of life and living and in return ask only that we observe the dictates of polite society. For that alone we could count ourselves as fortunate. But they have also established a framework whereby we can form relationships that will likely continue on, well into our adult lives. In that way we are truly blessed." Arlo said solemnly.
The three women were stunned by his strangely eloquent answer.
"You'll have to forgive Arlo. He gets a little wordy toward the end of the day." Simon timidly explained.
"You never have to apologize for speaking well." Cynthia hurried to assure the boys.
"I suppose it is a learned response from my former life, that I automatically react to stressful situations by behaving with forced formality that is typically above my station." Arlo quietly admitted.
"Whatever the reason, I think it's charming. But please don't feel that you have to behave differently on our account." Julie said warmly.
"What is your accent? I can't quite place it." Paula slowly asked.
"I really couldn't say. It is simply how I learned to speak." Arlo said reluctantly.
"To me his accent sounds part British and part New Englander with enough classical literature vocabulary sprinkled in to bring it all together and make it work." Simon told them with a timid smile.
Arlo considered for a moment, then responded with a slight nod of acknowledgement directed at Simon.
"Do you know if Erin's brother is happy here?" Julie asked with concern as she glanced at the next table.
Simon and Arlo shared a look before Simon finally explained, "Mike's in a different cabin from us, so we don't really talk to him that much. Obie would know a lot more about it than either of us would. But as far as we know, Mike is happy that he's allowed to live here, in a safe place, where he and Obie can each have their own friends and stuff but still get to be part of each others' lives."
"Cynthia, did things end up going well?" Mr. T asked as he approached the table, carrying a tray of food.
"Yes. Very well. Please join us." Cynthia quickly offered.
"As much as I am sure that I would enjoy that, my father and my brother are waiting for me to join them. It's just that when I saw you, I wanted to stop by and see how things ended up going with Obie's search for his missing brother." Mr. T said pleasantly.
"Mr T, I'd like to introduce Paula Russel and Julie Morrison, Erin's parents. Paula and Julie, this is one of the senior teachers and house parents at the camp, Mr T, whose real name is Derek Tecumseh."
"So Erin is Mike and Obie's brother?" Mr. T cautiously asked to confirm his understanding.
"Yes. And in case you had any doubt, Erin is Mike's identical twin." Cynthia said as she gestured in the direction of table 3.
After a moment of observing the two identical boys animatedly talking together, Mr. T finally said, "At least we won't have to go through all the bother of genetic test results."
"I'm just happy to see that they're getting along so well." Paula said honestly.
"You seem to have things well in hand, Cynthia. Please let me know if you need anything at all from me."
"Yes. Of course."
"Then if you'll excuse me." Mr. T said before hurrying away to join his family.
* * * * *
"Don't worry about that, Mom. We can do the dishes." Paul hurried to volunteer.
His sister's look of gratitude directed toward him was a rare thing that he appreciated.
"Will you boys be alright if I leave you here on your own for a little bit?" Joce asked cautiously.
"Unless you want to come with us to get my car." Lucy playfully added.
"Actually, while you're getting the car, I was thinking that maybe we could carry a load of my stuff over to the camp. Would that be okay?" Paul asked hopefully.
"Yes. That's fine. Just remember to lock up when you leave. Uncle Aubrey is trusting us to watch after the place while he's out of town." Joce said seriously.
"I will. Thanks Mom." Paul said gratefully.
"Actually, a few things happened today that I'm not too sure about. I'd like to take the opportunity to do a little research. You guys can handle it without me, can't you?" Jerico asked cautiously.
"Can we borrow your truck?" Paul asked in return.
"Oh, that's right, the Fiero doesn't have much cargo space, does it?" Jerico asked with a smile at his cousin.
"Maybe not, but it's still great. I love it. But can we borrow your truck to move my stuff?" Paul persisted.
"Alright. But don't be surprised if I call you and tell you that I need the truck for a job. I'm still on call until Uncle Aubrey gets back." Jerico said seriously.
"Yeah. If you call, we'll bring it right back to you." Paul immediately promised.
"It shouldn't take us long to unload, maybe Randolph can get some of his friends to help us." Donny quickly suggested.
"We can ask." Ronny said noncommittally.
* * * * *
"Hey guys! What are you doing here?" Devon cautiously asked.
"We've been out at the mall and wanted to take a little break. Uri suggested this spot." Dylan said frankly as Teddy stepped to his side and hugged him firmly.
"Devon suggested it for us. Did you find anything good at the mall?" Maurice asked, noticing the conspicuous lack of shopping bags.
"A few things. But since it sounds like we'll be going to the mall this weekend, I thought that today I'd like to look around to get ideas of what I'd like to buy when we come back." Dylan said frankly.
"It turns out that these guys are more responsible than I am." Lt. Masterson said with a chuckle under his words.
"I don't know about that. But I think that maybe we've learned to appreciate what we have and not ask for a lot of frivolous things." Dylan said slowly, obviously carefully choosing his words.
"I just hope that you'll be able to enjoy some frivolity at some point. I mean, it's part of being a kid." Lt. Masterson said frankly.
"It is difficult to explain the significance of it, but to me, the fact that any of us has the capacity to dream about material things we might enjoy is in itself a miracle." Uri quietly explained.
"Try to keep in mind that there's not just one way to be a kid. All we can do is our best for them and be prepared to celebrate whatever happiness they're able to find." Maurice said sagely.
"Yeah. That sounds like a good way to go." Lt. Masterson admitted.
"Do you want to join us? All we've really been doing is goofing around, enjoying a beautiful unscheduled, untroubled evening." Maurice asked with a contented smile.
"No schedule? No rush? No 'mission' hanging over our heads? It sounds heavenly to me." Lt. Masterson said happily.
Trent reached into Jose's backpack, then held up a Frisbee for everyone to see and waited for a reaction.
"Yeah. Okay." Devon said unconcernedly.
"I'm in." Jason K said immediately, then looked at Teddy imploringly.
"I... I don't know how." Teddy timidly admitted.
"It's easy. I'll show you." Jason K assured him.
"We'll all show you." Jose enthusiastically added.
"What do you say, Uri? Wanna play with us?" Dylan asked with a smile in his direction.
"I am afraid that I might injure the younger children with my much greater size and strength." Uri said anxiously.
"Don't worry. We're not going to be playing tackle Frisbee. We're just going to be throwing it around to each other. You'll be fine, I promise." Dylan said in an uncharacteristic, light-hearted tone.
"Are you going to play?" Uri asked curiously.
"Yeah. At least until my face starts hurting." Dylan said simply.
"Then I will play as well." Uri stated calmly.
* * * * *
A crash from the kitchen drew everyone's attention.
After a moment of stunned silence, Arlo cautiously said, "Perhaps we should go to the kitchen and offer our assistance."
"I think what we just heard was the sound of someone having a very bad day. When something like that has happened to me, the last thing I wanted was for everyone to rush in and see the stupid thing I just did." Simon quietly explained.
"I suppose that even if it were to involve extra work on my part, I too would prefer to save face in front of my contemporaries." Arlo said thoughtfully.
"Cynthia?" A woman cautiously asked as she approached the table.
"Yes." Mrs. Morrow warily confirmed.
"I'm glad I caught you. I'm Carmen Blacklance, one of the general education teachers here at the camp."
"It's nice to meet you." Cynthia cautiously responded.
"I heard that you'd been hired to help teach the new student, Xain Thompson. I've been in contact with a teacher named T'Mal on Vulcan who is familiar with him. On her advice, I've acquired some materials specifically for him that you may want to look over before you find yourself in a classroom setting."
"Thank you. That's very kind." Mrs. Morrow said quickly, sounding to be a bit astonished at the offer.
"If you're going to be here for a few more minutes, I will go and get those things for you now." Mrs Blacklance rushed to explain.
"We've heard rumors of meatloaf in our near future, but from the sounds coming from the kitchen, it may be a few more minutes until it finds its way to us." Cynthia said frankly.
"Good. I won't be long, then. There are just a few things that I wanted to make a point of providing to my replacement before they took over." Mrs. Blacklance said seriously.
"Before you go, I wanted to ask, if you're so concerned for Xain and have already done so much preparation, why are you withdrawing from your position as his primary teacher?" Cynthia asked curiously.
"I'm confident in my education when it comes to teaching middle and highschool level students. But as I prepared for teaching Xain, I realized that he would likely need someone well-versed and comfortable teaching at a college level. Despite my preparations, I can see myself holding him back and preventing him from realizing his full potential with unproven teaching techniques. He deserves a teacher who has some experience with the information that he's about to encounter." Mrs. Blacklance said seriously.
"Xain is fortunate to have so many people watching out for his best interests." Cynthia said honestly.
"If you ever find that you need any type of support, please don't hesitate to call on me. It's my hope that our continuing dedication to the cause will end up giving Xain a chance to attain his best possible future." Mrs. Blacklance said seriously, then hurried away from the table.
"So the two of you were working out what you believe is the best course of action regarding one particular student?" Paula asked curiously.
"Yes. The child is remarkably bright, but could be held back by teaching methods that don't properly address his needs. We're afraid that if we lose this first best chance to educate him, that he may never gain the solid foundation that he will need to achieve great things later in life." Cynthia carefully explained.
* * * * *
"You really like driving this thing, don't you?" Ronny asked with a smile at his friend's enjoyment.
"To me, this is what freedom feels like." Donny said honestly.
"Even though it doesn't make me feel the same as you, I think I can see what you're saying." Ronny said cautiously.
"You know, we could just go right now, if we wanted to." Donny reluctantly suggested.
"And steal Jerico's truck?" Ronny slowly asked.
"Not really. I mean, only for a little bit. Once we ditch Paul, we could leave the truck somewhere safe so that we'd know that Jerico would get it back." Donny quietly reasoned.
"But you wouldn't do that to Jerico and Paul, would you?" Ronny asked with increasing concern.
"For years I've been dreaming about what I'd do if I ever escaped from the guys who had me. I never even thought about cops or camps or anything like that. All I ever wanted was to be free to make my own decisions." Donny fought to explain.
"From the way it looks to me, you've already got that. Right here and now you can decide to go to a place where you'll be safe and cared for, or you can decide to live in the shadows, on the run." Ronny said seriously.
"Yeah." Donny begrudgingly confirmed, then thought to ask, "I guess you've never had to face a decision like that, huh?"
"No. Not exactly like that. But I probably won't have to anyway. I think I may have already found the freedom that I've been looking for."
* * * * *
"Teddy? What's wrong?" Dylan asked gently as he knelt at the boy's side.
"What?" Teddy confusedly responded.
"The Frisbee bumped your head and you went down like a rock." Dylan quietly explained.
"Wait... Did you say that to me before?" Teddy said uncertainly.
"That thing about me being like a rock or something."
"No. I don't think so."
"I feel like we did all of this before. We were right here doing this exact same thing. I remember everything happening, just like it is now, and even some of what's going to happen next." Teddy slowly explained.
"Déjà vu?" Dylan cautiously suggested.
"I don't know what that means, but it sounds like something you'd joke with Arlo about when he sees a ghost." Teddy said frankly.
"I barely know Arlo. I don't think I've ever joked with him." Dylan said slowly.
"Oh yeah... I guess not. In my dream, you two were really good friends." Teddy said seriously.
"I didn't think the Frisbee hit you that hard, but now I'm beginning to wonder." Dylan said hesitantly.
"Where's Rory?" Teddy asked as he looked around curiously.
"At his house, I guess. Do you know Rory?" Dylan asked cautiously.
"No. I mean, yeah. I never met him, but I kinda still know him." Teddy fought to explain.
"Why do you want to know where Rory is?" Dylan slowly asked.
"In my one dream he was here, but in my other dream he wasn't. I really can't remember any more than that." Teddy said uncertainly.
"Teddy? You're acting really strange. Is there something you need me to do for you?" Dylan asked with concern.
"The destroyer of worlds is coming... but I can't see why." Teddy finished with a smile.
"You're acting funny. I'm not sure what to do." Dylan said honestly.
"I don't know if that thing hitting me knocked me out or woke me up, but something weird just happened." Teddy said consideringly.
"So maybe you were spacing out and that's why you didn't catch the Frisbee?" Dylan tentatively ventured.
"Maybe. Or I could just be clumsy... All I know for sure is that I dreamed but I don't know if I was ever anything like asleep." Teddy slowly explained, seeming to realize what he was saying as he said the words.
"Do you think maybe he has a concussion?" Lt. Masterson asked with concern as he stood over the boys.
"I don't see how he could. The Frisbee barely tapped him." Maurice said frankly as he too remained on the lookout for any warning signs.
"Dylan?" Teddy whispered to draw Dylan's full attention back to him.
"I'm right here. What's up, Buddy?" Dylan asked quietly as he leaned closer, making it obvious that not only was he listening, but also that they had some small measure of privacy.
"My dream... I think some bad stuff happened. Do you think there's any way I could stay with you at your cabin tonight?" Teddy asked hopefully.
After a moment to process the seemingly unrelated sentences, Dylan finally responded, "It's not really up to me. The camp office and the house parents probably decide things like that. I'm not sure who we would even ask."
"But you'll do it? We can have a sleepover?" Teddy asked hopefully.
"I guess so. As long as we can get the people in charge to go along with it, it's okay with me." Dylan reluctantly said, fully aware that he had been railroaded.
* * * * *
"Here's your drinks. I'll be back with your food in a minute." Obie said as he carefully set the tray he was carrying on the end of the cabin 1 table.
"Was there a problem?" Cynthia asked curiously.
"Yeah. I don't really know all of what happened. I had your drinks ready and was walking ahead of Luke and Mouse. They had your food and they were bringing it out when, I guess someone walked in front of them so they stepped out of the way and then I guess they stepped in... I don't know, honey or syrup or something like that because it stuck their shoes to the floor. Then there was this kind of food explosion or eruption or something. All the food they were carrying kinda flew up into the air. Anyway, Mrs. Birch is making new plates for you and they should be ready by the time I get back." Obie explained as he placed the drinks on the table including cream and sugar alongside the cup of coffee.
"Are the other boys alright?" Cynthia asked with concern.
"Yeah. They just needed to change clothes and shower. They'll probably come back here when they're done. We usually hang out here for a little while after we're done eating so everyone can catch up on what happened with the different class groups." Obie explained before picking up his tray and returning to the kitchen.
* * * * *
After a stop at the front gate to check in, Donny pulled the truck into the parking lot, immediately followed by Paul in the Fiero.
"I didn't think about it before, but if Uncle Derek hasn't packed his stuff yet, then where should I put my things until our room is ready?" Paul asked as he approached.
"You can put your stuff in our cabin. You can leave your boxes in the common room until it's time for you to move in." Ronny reasonably suggested.
"I don't want to be in everyone's way." Paul said uncertainly.
"It's just me and Ronny there, but if you stack your stuff in one of the empty bedrooms then there's no chance of it being a problem, plus you'll be able to get to your boxes if you end up needing something." Donny said reasonably.
"I'm just glad I didn't bring the fish on this trip. That would've been a real mess." Paul said frankly.
"Besides, you wouldn't want to anger Leviathan." Donny said with a playful grin.
Paul earnestly nodded his agreement, then went to the back of the truck to grab a box.
Ronny and Donny followed his example and the 'moving in' was officially underway.
* * * * *
"Since we seem to be 'of a mind' regarding the boys, why don't we plan to do something special with them one day soon?" Maurice suggested as the group moved as a unit toward the parking area.
"That might be difficult for me. My ship's going to be leaving in a couple days and there's no telling when we'll be back to Earth next." Lt. Masterson said regretfully.
"That'll just make your next shore leave on Earth that much more special." Maurice said simply.
"Would you mind keeping an eye out for Dylan while I'm gone?" Lt. Masterson asked hopefully, then explained, "I know he'll be safe at the camp, but I'd still feel better if there was someone watching out especially for him. Not only has he had a serious injury, but at his age having an injury that drastically affects his appearance could be especially traumatizing."
"I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate me hovering around, obviously watching over him, but I could keep my eyes and ears open and keep you up to date on developments with our mutual acquaintances." Maurice said slyly.
"Yeah. We wouldn't want him to become too dependent on either of us, but we wouldn't want him to feel abandoned, either." Lt. Masterson said thoughtfully.
"That being said, if I notice him having difficulty in his new situation, I may encourage him to contact you or I might send you a message. Lt. Masterson, right? Which ship were you on again?"
"The Enterprise." Lt. Masterson immediately responded.
"If he looks like he might need a sympathetic ear, I may send you a message so that you can be the one to initiate contact with him." Maurice said simply.
"Maybe the two of us could get together and plan something with the kids next time I get back to Earth." Lt. Masterson suggested.
"Sure. Send me a message when you know you'll be back and we'll set something up." Maurice said happily.
"Remind me to get your contact information when we get back to the camp. We should get going so these guys will have time to settle down before bedtime."
After a moment to look over the collection of boys, Maurice quietly said, "We may already be past that point."
* * * * *
"Have you noticed how happy all the children seem to be?" Julie asked as she looked around the dining room.
"This seems to be more of a social event than a meal." Paula observed.
"I don't see it being that much different from us sitting around the kitchen table and talking about things that happened to each of us in the time we were apart, they just have more people to check up on."
"In the mission statement for the camp they talk about fostering a feeling of home and community for those who were deprived of much needed social skills during their formative years. At the same time, they work to provide a structured, goal-oriented living condition to give guidance to those who have been drifting without purpose." Cynthia carefully contributed.
"From what little I've seen, it looks like they might have managed to do that." Paula said consideringly.
"I got your food!." Obie said happily as he placed the heavily laden tray on the edge of the table.
"You should have gotten someone to help you with that." Cynthia said in surprise.
"Mouse and Luke should'a got someone to help them with it, I got it here just fine by myself." Obie insisted.
"I would argue the point, but the results do seem to speak for themselves." Cynthia said with an affectionate smile.
"I might expect such a lovely presentation in a fine dining restaurant, but I'm surprised to find it here." Paula said frankly.
"They try to make things nice, not just for you, but for all of us. We don't always get the most expensive things, but they want us to know what quality is like and why it's worth it to pay for it." Obie explained as he finished handing out the identical plates.
"We also take turns working in the kitchen. We get to see it from both sides so that we'll be able to tell the difference between something that's quality and something that's overpriced." Simon helpfully added.
Obie nodded his agreement to Simon's contribution.
"If it looks half as good as it smells, then we're in for a treat." Julie said delightedly.
"Is it okay if we go over to Micah's cabin before we have dinner?" Erin asked his parents in a comically begging tone as he scrambled up to the table.
"I don't know how long the dining room is going to be open. I wouldn't want you to miss your chance at dinner." Paula said reasonably.
"The dining room is going to be open for at least another hour." Obie hurried to chime in.
"I suppose so, then. Just don't take too long." Paula told her son gently.
"Thanks!" Erin yelped at his parents, then turned to Micah and asked, "Where is it?"
As the others watched, the two nearly identical boys raced out of the dining room.
Cynthia noticed Obie's downcast expression.
"I'm sure that they didn't intentionally leave you behind. If you went with them, I bet they wouldn't think twice about including you." Cynthia said gently.
"It's okay. I've had Mike to myself all this time. Erin needs his one-on-one brother time a lot worse than I do. When they're ready, I'm pretty sure the three of us will start doing things together." Obie finished with certainty.
"Yes. I'm sure you're right." Cynthia said with a slight smile, then thought to ask, "Aren't you having anything?"
Obie held up his glass to prove that he did have something. But rather than say something to that effect, he explained, "With Erin here, I didn't know what we'd be doing next so I was putting it off in case we were all going to eat together. I guess I should go ahead and get myself something while I've got the chance." Obie said simply as he stood.
"What about you boys?" Cynthia asked Arlo and Simon.
"We had our dinner before you arrived." Arlo said simply.
"But we might go back and get a little more, now that it's had a chance to settle." Simon said with an impish grin.
"It's nice that you can do that." Julie said pleasantly.
Simon glanced to see if Arlo was going to join him. When it was obvious that he was, Simon led the way to the cafeteria serving line.
"For some reason I feel like we're being shown something unreal, everything's just too sparkly and nicey-nice. As much as we might wish for it to be otherwise, people don't live like this." Paula declared with certainty.
"This is my first day working here, so I really can't say if there's something more going on behind the scenes. All I can do is relay to you what I've witnessed since I've been here, and so far, all of that's been positive." Cynthia said frankly.
* * * * *
"I hope you guys aren't too disappointed about going back early." Maurice quietly told his passengers.
"It's okay. We got to go and do something different for a while. That was nice." Jose said without concern.
"Yeah it was fun. I didn't think they'd let us do something like this on a school night." Jason K agreed.
"Th-th-thank you for t-t-taking us." Trent timidly contributed.
"How about you, Devon? Did you have a good time?" Maurice cautiously asked.
"Yeah. Just knowing that we can go and do something else feels really good. It's almost like I have a little bit of control over what happens to me." Devon said contentedly.
"Why don't you think about what else you'd like to do next time we can get together and let me know?"
"That sounds nice. I will." Devon assured him.
* * * * *
"Now that we're away from the others, is there anything you guys feel like talking about?" Lt. Masterson asked as he kept the majority of his attention on the road.
"Like how?" Dylan asked cautiously.
"I don't know. Sometimes there are things we don't want to talk about around the younger guys, so I thought I'd give you two an opportunity to ask questions if anything's bothering you."
"I know you said that Teddy wasn't hurt, but are you sure that I did not injure him?" Uri cautiously asked.
"I was watching. You threw it gently and it barely touched him. I don't know what caused Teddy's episode, but I can promise that it didn't have anything to do with your throw." Lt. Masterson said seriously.
"There's something going on there, but I think it has more to do with him wanting to always be around me." Dylan said frankly.
"In what sense?"
"I honestly don't know." Dylan said uneasily, then explained, "Back in Chicago, there was this kid named Johnny who reminds me a lot of Teddy in some ways. He was always hanging around me and was always looking for excuses for me and him to do things together."
"It sounds like he may have had a crush on you." Lt. Masterson said frankly.
"I don't know. Maybe." Dylan uncomfortably conceded, then continued, "You see, I don't think anybody ever loved him, and because of that, I don't think he really knew how to show love or even knew what love was."
"How did that end up working out?" Lt. Masterson cautiously asked.
"The guys who shot me in the face gunned him down on a street corner."
"So this was recently?"
"A few days ago. I was delirious in the hospital for a while so I'm not really clear on exactly when everything happened." Dylan explained.
"It's a miracle that you can even get out of bed." Lt. Masterson said frankly.
"I'm not feeling very miraculous at the moment, to tell you the truth." Dylan said tiredly.
"We'll be back at the camp in a few minutes. Why don't you just sit back and relax?"
"Sure. But maybe while I'm doing that, you could tell us a little bit about yourself."
"There's not much to tell. I'm a career Starfleet officer, I've been in twelve years, most of that in security."
"I'm guessing that you don't usually go back and check up on the people you've met at your job." Dylan asked with a pained smile.
"No. I can't say that it's been a frequent occurrence." Lt. Masterson chuckled.
"So why now?" Dylan asked seriously.
"I guess I'm finally to the point where I'd like a life that has some permanence to it. You know, something that's waiting for me when I get back to Earth."
"Me?" Dylan squeaked.
"No!" Lt. Masterson good-naturedly laughed before explaining, "Visiting with you just seems like a step on the path in the right direction. When I get back to Earth, I can ask how things are going with you and turn my focus to something other than my job."
"Are you doing this for those 'reasons' or is it because you want to?" Dylan asked curiously.
"Because I want to." Lt. Masterson responded, not even having to consider it. "I was just outlining why it makes sense. Maybe we'll have better lives because we decided to face things together rather than separately."
Dylan considered for a moment, then quietly said, "I like the sound of that."
* * * * *
Cynthia and the moms watched curiously as a small herd of boys, apparently led by Mike and Erin, hurried past the table and directly to the serving line of the cafeteria.
"I'm guessing that their appetites must have overridden the emotional impact of their reunion." Julie said speculatively.
"Priorities." Paula said simply, letting it be her entire explanation.
* * * * *
After a long silence but for the hum of the engine, Uri finally cautiously asked, "How would one go about preparing oneself to apply for a position in Starfleet security?"
"Normally, I'd tell someone asking to talk to the Starfleet Academy about what it takes to be considered for enrollment. But since you're at Camp Little Eagle, I'm guessing that your best bet will be to talk to any Clan member so that they can get you on the inside track." Lt. Masterson said earnestly.
"Any shortcut I take is a potential point of failure. If the inside track starts to sound appealing to me, I need to consider a profession where dedication doesn't really matter."
"Why do you think that?" Dylan asked curiously.
"I have size and physical strength, but on more than one occasion I have been compelled to do things against my will. I would like to develop the internal fortitude to insure that such things will no longer be a possibility. I have the sense that my best chance for success involves going through the entire training process and learning every lesson in the spirit that it was taught." Uri said seriously.
* * * * *
"Is it okay if everyone sits with us?" Erin asked hopefully as he approached with his entourage in tow.
Although all three women were stunned by the brashness of the question, Julie was finally able to say, "It looks like we have enough room. I think that would be wonderful."
"Like a dream come true." Paula quietly added.
"That's my seat!" Obie declared as he shouldered his way through the boys to get to the spot beside Cynthia.
"I don't see your name on it." Mike told his younger brother bluntly.
"My glass is still there. I just went for food." Obie explained reasonably.
After a glance at the glass in question, Mike finally grudgingly said, "Alright then."
* * * * *
"Erin, do you want to introduce us to your friends?" Julie asked in a leading tone.
"I don't know everyone's names yet. This is my twin brother, Mike. He can tell you who everyone else is."
"Hi." Mike said timidly to the three women, then continued a bit more formally, "These guys with us are Ryvan and Kole. If you see them waving at each other they're not playing around, it's because Ryvan's deaf and that's how they talk."
"It's nice to meet you."Julie said sincerely while Paula signed a greeting to them.
"I'll let these guys introduce themselves so I don't get lost in the silent letters." Mike said with a teasing grin at his friends.
One of the boys started off by saying, "This is Scott, Singh, and I'm Keogh. We live in cabin 3 with Mike."
"What about the silent letters?" Cynthia felt compelled to ask.
"My name is Keogh, the 'g' is silent."
"My name is Singh, the 'h' is silent."
"My name is Scott, one of the 't's is silent, I haven't decided which one yet."
"We all live in the same cabin, but since Obie moved to cabin 1, Mike and Keogh are going to share a room now. That way Nathan and his big... he's going to get a room by himself. We'll all be happier that way." Singh stammered as he realized to whom he was speaking.
"This food is really good." Erin said between bites, oblivious to all that was going on around him.
"Yeah. But the really freaky thing about this place is if they're having something that you don't like, they'll fix you something else. They won't even be mad about it or anything. They're always making special plates because of medical conditions, different religions, or special diets for moral reasons." Mike told his twin with a tender smile of amusement at his enjoyment.
"It's really wild that Obie found Erin like he did. I mean, that's the kind of thing you hear about on TV shows and in movies. That doesn't happen to real people." Keogh explained earnestly.
"I had lots of help. Just about all the guys from cabin 1 were helping me." Obie said frankly.
"Is that why you moved there?" Julie asked curiously.
"No. I just fit in better over there. We like most of the same movies and games and stuff." Obie explained.
"Ryvan wants to know if you're going to miss us." Kole asked seriously.
"If I do, I'll just walk over to Cabin 3 and visit you." Obie said as he signed a similar sentiment, directed at Ryvan.
"We're going for more mango slices. Does anyone else want some?" Singh asked as he stood.
"I'd like some." Erin immediately answered.
"Yeah. Me too." Obie said with a grin at his long lost brother.
"I'll get some for all three of us." Mike said as he also stood.
"Anyone else?" Singh asked, directing his question mainly at Cynthia, Julie, and Paula.
After a glance at the 'moms', Cynthia finally said, "No. I think we're fine, but we appreciate the offer."
Not needing further encouragement, Singh and Mike took off toward the serving line.
* * * * *
Getting all the boys signed in at the gate was a small matter.
Saying goodbye... not so much.
All the boys were in various stages of choking up and a few tears were visible as Lt. Masterson and Maurice pulled away from the visitor's parking area.
Dylan wasn't surprised that Teddy clung to his side as the group slowly walked toward the cafeteria. Even he was feeling a bit fragile at that moment.
"It's not even dark yet. We still have time to do stuff." Jason K said with enthusiasm that seemed a little forced.
"Yeah. We need to get stuff ready if we're going to have a sleepover." Teddy said as he continued to hold tightly to Dylan.
"Hold on there. I said that I don't mind if we have a sleepover, but there are a lot of other people we have to ask for permission before we'll be allowed to do it." Dylan fought to explain.
"That's okay. There's no reason for them to say no." Teddy said reasonably.
"Except that we have school tomorrow." Jose said seriously.
"As long as Dylan is there with us, they won't care." Teddy said honestly.
"Me? What do I have to do with it?" Dylan asked cautiously.
"They trust you." Teddy said honestly.
"How can they trust me like that? They don't even know me." Dylan asked seriously.
"I think that they look at you and they can see that you know pain... you know loss. You've been to the edge and made a decision that brought you here. Now you have their respect." Teddy said quietly.
"How do you know anything about what I've been through?"
"I can just look at you to see how you've been hurt... the outside stuff anyway. I'm betting the inside's worse. If you hadn't lost anyone, you wouldn't be here in this place; you'd be with them right now. And I know you made a decision because we all did, whether we meant to or not. You're not curled up in a corner crying, so you decided to live and fight at least one more day." Teddy said seriously.
Dylan noticed that they had stopped walking and that everyone was waiting for his response.
"Are you the same scared little kid that I met this morning? Because you really seem a lot different now." Dylan asked cautiously.
"I'm still me, but I'm not the same as I was then. I think I woke up... even though I wasn't asleep." Teddy said slowly, then looked up at Dylan with a smile as he asked, "Can we just blame whatever it is on the Frisbee?"
After a moment to consider, Dylan finally said, "Jose, you'd better keep that Frisbee in a safe place. We wouldn't want it falling into the wrong hands."
* * * * *
"Here are some more people that I want you to meet." Obie happily announced as Dylan, Uri, Devon and an array of younger kids poured into the room.
Before Obie could catch anyone's attention, the whole group of them went directly to the cafeteria line.
"Should we move? Are we in their places?" Julie asked with concern.
"No. You were here first." Obie said emphatically, letting it be known with his tone of voice that it was the law of the cafeteria.
"Those of us from other cabins can move out of their way. We have places of our own." Kole calmly added.
"Can I stay here at the camp for a sleepover tonight?" Erin asked his parents hopefully, seemingly oblivious to all that was going on around them.
"We just met and we really want to get to know each other better." Mike said in a begging tone that was identical to his twin's.
"I don't think..." Julie began to say when she was interrupted.
Before anyone could stop him, Erin hurried to add, "I don't even know why Mike and Obie are here at the camp. We haven't had a chance to talk about that yet."
"All these years we dreamed about each other but we thought each other was dead. We need some time to prove to ourselves that this is real." Mike urged them to understand.
"And we have another brother who I haven't really had a chance to talk to yet." Erin added even more urgently.
"Maybe this weekend..." Paula began to say when Mike quickly said, "It won't be the same. You don't get a second chance at a first time. This is the first time we've seen each other since we were little kids. We've got to do this right."
"What'd I miss?" Dylan quietly asked from directly behind Obie.
"Mike and Erin want to have a sleepover so that they can have some time to get to know each other." Obie said quietly over his shoulder.
"Are you included in that?" Dylan asked curiously.
"Maybe. I get the feeling that this is more of a twin thing than a 'brother' thing." Obie said honestly.
"Do you want to go?"
"Yeah, but no. I feel like Mike and Erin need to get their twin stuff done before I get too much into it but at the same time, nobody likes to feel left out."
"Teddy's been trying to set up a sleepover for tonight, I mean, if you're interested." Dylan said seriously.
"Yeah, I think that'd be nice." Obie said honestly.
As Dylan looked around the table he could tell that other conversations had stopped.
Before either Dylan or Obie could begin to explain, Paula quietly asked, "Erin, would you like for Mike to come over and spend the night at our house?"
"Yes." Erin immediately answered.
"Well that sucks." Kole said automatically, then lowered his eyes when he realized that everyone was paying attention to him.
"I don't know if Obie is right about Mike and Erin needing to spend time together, but I'm willing to err on the side of caution regarding that." Julie said earnestly, then explained, "However, a gathering with many people in attendance would likely be a distraction from the bonding which is the point of the entire exercise. For that reason, I believe that we should host a sleepover at our house for Erin and Mike... and Obie, if he wants to."
"That's cool. That sounds like a really good idea actually." Kole admitted, then explained, "It just sucks that me and Ryvan are going to be left out... again. I mean, first Obie moves out, then Keogh, Singh, and Scott get to have their Boy Scout thing. And now Mike is running off to do his own thing."
"Maybe if we're allowed to have a sleepover, you could join us." Dylan said simply, then looked at Teddy inquisitively.
"That'd be nice." Teddy said simply.
"We haven't gotten permission yet, but we'll make sure to include you when we ask." Dylan promised.
* * * * *
"So this is where everyone is. The camp was busy with people all over the place when we left but we haven't seen anyone since we got back." Donny said honestly.
"Are you moving in?"Jason K asked hopefully.
"Yeah. We just brought a load of stuff over." Paul said with a smile at the younger boy's acceptance.
"Do you need any help carrying things in?" Uri asked seriously.
"No, we're done with this load. We thought we'd get a snack and relax for a while." Ronny said pleasantly.
"All three of you moved in today, didn't you?" Devin asked curiously.
"Yeah." Donny answered easily.
"Close enough." Ronny said evasively.
"Tomorrow, officially." Paul said with a grin of anticipation.
"Guys, I'd like you to meet Mrs. Morrow and Erin's parents, Mrs. Morrison and Mrs. Russell." Obie said pleasantly.
"Hi. Nice to meet you." Donny said pleasantly.
Ronny and Paul responded with similar greetings, while they were less comfortable than Donny's, they were no less sincere.
"If we're having a sleepover at your place, I'll need clothes to wear tomorrow." Mike said abruptly as he suddenly stood.
The other Cabin 3 boys automatically stood up to join him.
Before anyone could question or think about protesting Mike and his entourage were heading as a group toward the door.
"We're going to have a sleepover, do you want to too?" Teddy asked Ronny and Donny hopefully.
Donny looked to Arlo and cautiously asked, "Are you going to the sleepover, Randolph?"
"Whilst I feel that I should decline out of some sense of impropriety, I cannot for the life of me say what would be improper about it." Arlo responded with an expression of puzzlement.
"Does that mean that you'll go?" Donny asked to confirm.
"Yes. I believe I will." Arlo said with a serene smile.
"You'd better stop inviting people since we haven't even gotten permission yet." Dylan said seriously.
"I'm not sure if you would ask the administration or a house parent." Uri said in slow consideration.
"If you want, we can ask Uncle Hawkeye. He's right over there." Paul said reasonably.
When Dylan recognized where Paul was looking, he cautiously said, "We probably shouldn't interrupt him while he's having dinner."
"It's okay, I think he's done. He looks like he's just sitting there. Come on."
* * * * *
"Uncle Hawkeye, Dylan had a really good idea, but he doesn't know who to talk to to make it work, so I thought that maybe we could ask you and if you aren't the person we should be asking then maybe you could tell us who is?" Paul asked in one giant verbal explosion.
"Tell me your idea." Chief Tecumseh said as he glanced at Dylan's bandaged face.
"I was just thinking that we could make things easier for Teddy on his first night at the camp by having a little sleepover for him, you know, kind of make it special. I think that between Jason K and I that we should be able to make him comfortable and maybe with a few more people, it could be a way to let him know that he belongs. It wouldn't be a party and we wouldn't be up too late, but it might be a good way to make Teddy feel included and welcome." Dylan said anxiously.
"If we wait until tomorrow, it will be the start of the weekend and you won't have to worry about making it an early night." Chief Tecumseh said reasonably.
"Uncle Hawkeye, there's a lot of stuff going on right now with a lot of different people and some of it won't be going on tomorrow. If we do it tonight, it'll be something special, just for Teddy. He'll know that we did it because we really want him to be here. If we do it tomorrow, it'll be just because it's the weekend, the same as any other weekend." Paul implored his uncle to understand.
"Be that as it may, we also have to take into account the disruption this will cause for the other campers. It would be disrespectful to plan an event when other people are trying to lead their normal lives which includes getting a full night of sleep in preparation for classes in the morning." Chief Tecumseh cautioned.
"Cabin 7 was just finished today so we won't be bothering anyone. Donny and Ronny are the only people living there right now and they've already been invited to the sleepover, to welcome them on their first day." Paul rushed to explain.
"So this gathering serves more than one purpose?" Chief Tecumseh prompted.
"Besides Teddy, it will also be a way of including Kole and Ryvan in something fun, since the rest of their cabin mates have been invited to do other things this weekend." Dylan explained.
"Yeah. It's Ronny and Donny's first day here. I'm going to be moving in tomorrow, so it's partly for me too." Paul hurried to add.
"With such a preponderance of special occasions crashing in upon us, it would be foolish to refuse to acknowledge them." Chief Tecumseh said with, what appeared to be, a slightly amused smile.
"So we can do it?" Paul asked hopefully.
"Yes. However, do keep in mind that future requests for special considerations may be determined by your actions on this occasion." Chief Tecumseh said in a warning tone.
"Huh?" Paul hesitantly asked.
"Don't make him regret it." Dylan paraphrased.
"I'm going to need clothes for tomorrow... and I need to get Jerico his truck back." Paul said suddenly, then dashed away to embark on his next adventure.
Both Chief Tecumseh and Dylan watched him go with identical fond smiles.
"How are things going for you, young Mr. Chang?" Chief Tecumseh asked in a low, reassuring voice.
"Ever since I can remember, I've always been alone. Now, not only am I surrounded by people that I can care about, but also by people who care about me. This sleepover thing we're going to have... it's like something from a world that I've only ever seen from the outside and thought that I could never be a part of."
The Adventure Continues...
It has been so long since we have visited with the folks from Camp Little Eagle.
It seems that things are improving for just about everyone.
I am most likely going to need to reread a couple of earlier chapters to bring myself up to speed. I have been busy the last couple of days, attending a meeting.
I will catch up and write more words here, as I get the time.
Darryl the RadioRancher