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BOYS of the Universe Explorer
By Michael Lee-Allen Dawn
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Michael Lee-Allen Dawn
All rights reserved.
The War is Over
The war with the Qaralon was long and brutal. The Humans and the Tenarians were joined by quite a few other races, over the years, who were also fed up with the Qaralon raids, fed up with the Qaralon taking their children for food. The Qaralon and Framgar outnumbered the other races, in both man power and their sheer amount of ships, but that mattered very little in the long run. The other races had ships that were by far more superior in both build and handling. Because of this, the Qaralon and Framgar ended up losing nearly twenty ships to every one that they were able to damage or destroy.
They could afford to lose these though, for much too long a time. However, eventually at these losses, they could not sustain their army any longer, and after fifty years, they surrendered. The war lasted a long time, but the battles were few and far between, so finally near the end, the defenders decided enough was enough, and went straight for the heart of the Qaralon and Framgar. They managed to finish the war in four awful weeks. The attackers became very desperate near the end, and just before they signaled defeat, took out many ships.
The Humans had lost roughly fifty thousand ships, and many more millions of people during the war. Many more people were lost due to Qaralon raids however, they would take whole families while they slept, and what happened to them, no one knew, or wanted to guess. The Tenarians lost in around the same amount of ships, but not quite so many people, and the other races also lost many. It was a bitter victory, but victory none the less. Captain Casey had retired after nearly thirty years, becoming the most decorated and celebrated war hero, his victories in the war equaled many ships all together. During the war, he married his first officer, and they had six children all together, their oldest, Jonathon Casey, was the only one to also become a ships captain.
Jonathon had learned everything he could about flying a space ship from the many years of growing up on one. He did everything in the ship he was able to do; from cleaning, to helping to repair anything and everything, he did it all. All the children were tutored on board the ship, and Jonathon excelled, he did so well in fact, that by the age of fifteen, he had already graduated. Not only was he a high school graduate, but he was fully qualified to operate his very own ship, there was simply nothing he did not know about them.
At their next stop at home, Jonathon left his family, and his home for the very first time in his life, and headed to school. At university, Jonathon exceeded every expectation, and graduated after almost ten years, at the top of his class, with masters degrees in Child Psychology and Advanced Space Engineering, and more than a few minor degrees in varying areas of medics, space travel, and child behavior.
Once Jonathon left school, he was handed a ship of his own to captain, for what was to be the last ten years of the war, and he got his parents ship, none other than the original Universe Explorer, now dubbed the UE1.
The surrender of the Qaralon was a much celebrated time among all those that had fought. The losses however dampened the spirits, but everyone still celebrated the end of the war, and the final freedom it created. Finally, the rebuilding of the planet could take place. With the war ended, and no more ships being built, and other than a few kept to repair the current ships, every shipbuilder was utilized to rebuild the cities.
It turned out however that a much greater problem had occurred because of the war. Many people were lost, but the children were as protected as they could be, so because of this, there ended up being a great many orphans. As many were adopted by loving parents as could be. The care centers that were built to care for all the children during the war, while the parents were away, turned into orphanages, where the remainder stayed. These children were never forgotten by the governments caring for them, every one of these children had suffered great losses, and because of this, they received the best possible care.
Jonathon of course saw to this, he made sure that every country treated these children with the utmost of respect and care, to help them to grow into fine adults. After working in more than a few orphanages for a few years, and helping the children, he started to get restless with the itch to be in space again. He had never really lived on Earth before, except the years that he was at school, and even then he itched to be in space. An idea started to form, one he hoped would combine his talents. With that idea forming in his mind, he decided to call his parents to see what they thought.
"Hi Mom and Dad, how are you guys doing?" He asked of his parents when they answered their video phone.
"We're doing fine Jonathon, how about you?" Admiral Casey asked. His dad of course got many promotions over the years, and retired an admiral.
"Just missing being in space. I'm thinking of doing something drastic, so would like your opinions." He said, something that hardly surprised them.
"We know how you feel, we've both felt the same many times, that's why sometimes we go for a month or two and fly somewhere. We find it real handy since they retired the Universe Explorer and gave it to us, so now we can use it whenever we want to." His mother, Captain Casey said.
"That's kind of what I was calling about as well. Well you see, I need to get back in the sky, and I want to borrow your ship for a while, a couple years at least I figure, but don't worry, you'd always be welcome aboard." Jonathon grinned.
"You know you're welcome to borrow the ship any time you want, because it really is as much yours as it is ours. I have to ask though, what do you have in mind, since I can't really see you giving up on the kids?" Admiral Casey asked curiously, knowing that the kids were the one and only reason that their son was not still in the sky.
"Definitely not, they're in on this as well. Here's what I have in mind. I want to take twenty kids that we find, preferably right off the streets, and use them to run the ship. I'll teach them everything they need to know, I'll school them, and we'll take on missions the same as everyone else, just like any crew. Because I want to gather the boys right off the streets, ones who are very good at slipping by the police, it could be difficult though."
"Difficult may not be the best word to use. There are a lot of children on the streets, and even with our best efforts to get them into homes, it's been difficult, they're very slippery. Your idea's ambitious, but nice, are you sure you can do it alone though?" His mom asked, she had been trying for years to get all the children into homes as well, but most of the ones still on the street were very well versed in evading capture.
"I'm sure of that, the kids will have very little trust of adults, so the fewer, especially to start, the better. I'm going to call in a few favors, and get the ship outfitted to start taking missions again, of course for the first month or so, we'll probably just stay pretty close to home, so that the kids can learn in relative safety."
"Well, it sounds like you've got everything thought out then. When are you going to announce this all and get the ship?" His father asked.
"I was thinking of finishing out the current month, and start searching for the perfect boys for this mission on my off time. I think I'll be able to get most right from this area alone, if not all. I might try and use some of the kids I know from the orphanage to help, the street kids are more likely to trust them. I'll also check the hospitals for ones who've been injured, and then I'll test them all to see if they'll be able to do this. I hope to be in the sky in less than a month." Jonathon said.
"Sounds good, but if you need any help at all, just ask us, or your brothers and sisters, we're all willing to help wherever possible." Jonathon's mom told him.
"Will do, love you guys, have a good night."
"We love you too Jon, be careful though, those children are very good, and even you could get hurt." His mother admonished one final time before they hung up, knowing of course that it was of very little use, she knew that Jonathon knew of the risks of what he was planning very well.
A few days later found Jonathon in the office of the orphanage director, telling him all about his plans, the conversation went much the same as the one with his parents. The director of course offered what assistance that he could. Jonathon informed the director that, if possible, he would get the boys that he found, that did not meet his criteria, into the orphanage to get them taken care of properly.
The Search Begins
Jonathon's first find, when he started looking a few days later still, was a twelve-year-old boy who had been beaten up by a rival street gang, and was in the hospital. Jonathon had been alerted by one of his contacts at the hospital about the boy, and his supreme attitude problem, and knowing from what Jonathon had told him, that the boy would be perfect.
When he went to the hospital to meet the boy, he found a young thin red haired boy strapped to the bed. He was dirty, more than a little smelly and unkempt would be putting it kindly. He was also wearing a pretty hefty looking leg cast and was still pretty bruised and battered. As soon as he walked in the room, the boy eyed him warily, seeing very clearly that he did not belong in the hospital and wondering what he could possibly want.
"Hello young man, I understand you haven't told anyone your name yet, but that's okay, I understand. I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes please, if I could?" He asked.
"No, I haven't told anyone my name, and I won't either. Who are you, and what ya want?" He asked defiantly.
"That's okay, you don't have to tell me yet, but I'd like to be able to call you something other than young man. So tell me if you have a street or nick name I can use? As for who I am, and what I want. Well, my name's Captain Jonathon Casey, and I'd like to give you a test, it's fairly simple, but will take a little while."
"If I told you what most people call me, it'd make you blush, just call me kid, most others do. Are you related to Admiral Casey, he's awesome? Will the test hurt any? I'm not going anywhere, they have me all tied down, so that I won't try and escape again."
"First of all, I can assure you that nothing you say can or will make me blush. I'm a doctor as well as a captain, and I help children. I'm probably more aware of what you had to do to stay alive on the streets than anyone else. I've helped a lot of you guys out there on the street. Yes, Admiral Casey's my father, and I agree with you. Let me see, what was your next question? Oh yeah, the test won't hurt any, just some questions. Now, tell me, why would you try to run away when you look as beat up as you do? It hardly looks as if you can walk, let alone run, you're one massive bruise. Not to mention the cast on your leg, it goes all the way up!"
"I hate hospitals, and I don't trust them doctors, always trying to get me into an orphanage, or possibly worse." He spat out.
"Well hating hospitals I can understand, not the most pleasant places to have to spend a few days, but would you rather the alternative? I'm told that with the amount of internal bleeding you had, that you would've died within a few hours, had you not been brought in. As for not going to an orphanage, tell me, why would you hate that so much? There are adults there to care for you, other kids to play with, you get to go to school and learn, you wouldn't have to live on the street and freeze every night, or wonder how or where your next meal was going to come from. As well you wouldn't have to do all that I know you've had to do to get that food. Stealing being the least of which. We won't go further into that, it isn't my business, and no one needs to know." Jonathon said softly.
"Well they fixed me up, so now I want to go, that's all. I've just heard bad things about orphanages, some say you're nothing but slaves, and others say that you get no food, and are crowded into tiny rooms with dozens of kids. I'm better off on the streets."
"Yes they patched you up, but you aren't healed yet, far from it in fact. Now orphanages are nothing like that, there are two boys, or two girls per room, you aren't a slave in any way, and you get fed and treated very well. At most you'll have basic chores to help with, like laundry or dishes or helping to cook, little things like that, and it's at most an hour or two a week. Not exactly hard work, but heck, even if it was as bad as all that, it would've been a lot better than living on the street if you ask me. Thankfully though we'd never treat any kid like that. Let's get started with this test then, if that's okay by you?" Jonathon asked softly again, and the young man just nodded.
For the next half hour, Jonathon administered a verbal test to the boy, and he did very well, but not all that surprising really, considering just how smart the kids had to be to evade the enemies that were always after them. He was able to answer almost all the questions that Jonathon asked quickly and correctly, almost without thinking.
"Well kid, you did very well on the test, congratulations. You of course lack the book knowledge, like reading and general math, but you're very bright. You also have the other skills I'm looking for; you're a very fast thinker, but most importantly, you're a survivor. I have a proposition to make."
"What is it?" The boy asked with a bit of curiosity peeking through the tough exterior he tried to show.
"How would you like to be part of the crew on the Universe Explorer One. I'm looking for twenty boys just like you. It'll be kind of like a space school kind of thing. You'd be expected to follow orders, and work very hard, but you'll get so much more out of it than you could ever put into it." Jonathon told the boy quietly, as if he were telling a huge secret, to help pique his interest even more, and by the size of his eyes, it had.
"Are you gonna be the captain?" The boy asked almost excitedly, then clamped down on it to try and stop his feelings from showing.
"Yes. Now could you trust me enough with your name and age, so that I can put you on the crew manifest?"
"My name's Brady, and I think I'm twelve, when do we leave?" He asked excitedly now, no longer even trying to act tough.
"In a few days I'm going to start taking kids up to the ship, but I'm told that you're here for at least five more days anyway, and I'd like for you to try and cooperate, as well as get better! Now, I'd like to give you an official crew communicator, so that if you need me for anything at all, you can call. For now, once this is put on, it won't come off, okay, so that that way no one can try and take it from you. It'll also allow me to teleport you when you're ready to leave. Will this be alright?" He asked Brady, knowing full well the answer by how much Brady was vibrating in excitement now.
"I guess so." He answered and held out his wrist to have the communicator attached. Jonathon took a few minutes to go over the controls and how to contact him.
"Okay Brady, I have to go now, because I only have a short time left to gather all the boys I need for this mission. I'll see you in a few days."
"Okay, thanks. Can I recommend someone to come along? He's my best friend." Brady asked hopefully.
"Tell me where to find him, and I'll find him and give him the test. If he passes, I'll make the offer, but if he doesn't make the cut, then he'll have to stay. Is that okay with you?"
"I guess so. He goes by Raven, and you can usually find him in the alley behind the library. He has very black hair, that's why he's called Raven." He said, telling Jonathon any other information he could.
"I'll go find him right away then. See you in a few days then, and remember to call me if you need anything."
"I will, bye, oh, and thanks."
Jonathon left the hospital and took almost two hours to find who he thought was Raven. He ended up having to chase after him. It had been tough to find the young man, because as with most of the kids on the street after the war, they had become very adept at hiding and sneaking to escape becoming a nice Qaralon meal.
Excerpted from BOYS of the Universe Explorer by Michael Lee-Allen Dawn. Copyright © 2013 Michael Lee-Allen Dawn. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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