“That’s it for today, thanks everyone. Enjoy your lunch! Class dismissed.”
Getting up from their picnic benches, the group of teenagers all collected their items and started to make their way away from their outdoor classroom towards the area they used to hang out during their break times.
Stifling a yawn somewhat, Captain McCallister placed the back of his right hand over his mouth as he collected his own items from where he had set himself up. His notes on his maths lesson were sat on the table at the front of the class. Placing the PADDs he had into the satchel he used, he hadn’t noticed one of his students come up to him and stand close by. Eventually the former captain of the Odyssey looked up and saw he still had an audience. “Jorgeh, you okay?”
“Sorry to disturb you sir, but my…dads…asked me to pass this note on to you.” Jorgeh offered as he passed a folded piece of paper to him. “They said you’d understand it.”
“Sure, thanks.” McCallister said as he took the paper. “Jorgeh, just wanted to say I was impressed with your work today in class. Well done.”
Smirking somewhat nervously, the teenage lad just nodded in appreciation as he started to walk away. He paused halfway and turned back to McCallister. “I need to say something, sir. If that’s okay?”
Holding the folded paper between his arms, McCallister just looked at the youngster with a sense of concern, “Sure Jorgeh, what is it?”
“I know I may get into trouble for saying this with the isomorph that is meant to by my mother, but I want you to know that even though these past two months have been hell for you and everyone else who was taken from the Odyssey and forced to look after all of us,” Jorgeh gestured to the other young people that had been in the class, “for me and my brother plus a number of others, we do appreciate it and we understand how much you want to return home. I’m sorry.”
For the first time in weeks, McCallister found his defence drop somewhat at the sentiment coming from this lad before him. In some ways Jorgeh reminded him of his son Alfie. Kind, caring and compassionate. “Thanks, Jorgeh but we don’t blame any of you for what we find ourselves in. Now go on, get out of here. I hear that you’ve got a swimming competition later, my former chief engineer tells me you’re quite the swimmer. You don’t want to miss practice.”
“Thank you sir.” Jorgeh said as he quickly darted away and across the grass to meet up with the rest of his friends.
Opening the note, McCallister read what it said: MEET UNDER THE TREE?
Crunching the note up and sticking it in the pocket of his trousers, McCallister pulled his bag over his shoulder, placed his sunglasses on and walked out of school for his secret rendezvous.
The almost hour hike along the valley to his undisclosed meeting had given McCallister, like it always did, time to reflect on the life he was currently leading. Two months had passed for those who had been kept behind on the Quirennal to care for the young people and children that had come out of stasis. The first few days had been met by a lot of resistance from his crew, especially after Jyster had announced on the third day that there was no way the Odyssey could find them. She had used the ship’s coaxial warp drive to place some significant distance between them and their former ship. She had even stated how she had disabled the Odyssey by planting numerous computer viruses that would prevent their crewmates from being able to attempt a proper rescue. Uproar had ensued over her actions, but McCallister had ordered his crew to stand down and deal with the situation they were now in. It hadn’t gone down well and he was certain their trust in him was badly damaged. Jyster had worked out who would become guardians/parents to the children and young people while others were giving other jobs that supported the running of their new community. Carefully he had been able to get the message around to everyone that they will bide their time and find a way to take over the Quirennal and escape to the Odyssey.
Two months in and they still weren’t any further, but each day brought new insights into the ship and it helped McCallister. If anything else the biggest information they had gotten their hands on was the name of the species that Jyster came from and some of their background. Her people were known as the Rylsanti and once led an advanced coalition of galactic powers in a region that was located on the border of the Gamma and Delta quadrants close to the galactic core. They had also gathered that the Rylsanti’s homeworld had been lost over a thousand years ago when an alien species had invaded. Their government made the decision to send as many of their people away from their space in these huge ark like starships to ensure their species survived. It was a noble effort. McCallister had pondered the thought that if the Federation was ever close to falling, would a similar attempt be made by Starfleet for a final stand?
Though he was not missing wearing his uniform on a daily basis now, McCallister did miss being a proper starship captain. Jyster had decided that she would give him the job of principal of the school that she had created for her children. She wanted McCallister to use his experience from teaching at the academy to give her children the education they were denied while in stasis. Instead of running a bridge, he now found himself having to design and teach a curriculum to a diverse range of ages. Most of the crew were involved with it during the day while others had become stay-at-home parents with the younger children or were undertaking other jobs across the settlement they had created. The entire dynamics of his crew had changed in a matter of weeks. He appreciated that even though there were protests and none of them liked being forced to do this, the crew had stepped up in looking after the Rylsanti youngsters. It was not their fault for the situation they found themselves in. Almost every single one of them was traumatised by what had occurred and they had found the transition just as difficult. Understanding that they were being forced by a hologram to be cared for total strangers was a huge struggle for so many of them.
Climbing a small hill, an area that had become one of the somewhat unofficial meeting points for the remaining senior staff, McCallister was pleased to see his first officer waiting for him along with his yeoman. Both Duncan and Court had remained loyal to McCallister throughout everything. The two men, who were both sitting on some logs they had previously set up to sit on, smiled at his arrival and stood up to greet him with a brief friendly hug. Before them they had brought some food.
“Good to see you Capt.” Court said as they had a quick embrace.
“Likewise Tobie.” McCallister replied after letting go and pulling his first officer into a similar embrace. “How are you both? I feel like it’s been days since we last saw one another.”
“We’re good.” Duncan assured him as they all sat down. “And you?”
“Teaching has kept me busy, your ‘sons’ are both doing well.” McCallister said with a smirk as he took out a bottle of water from his bag and sipped on it.
Sniggering slightly at the term that McCallister had used to describe the two boys that Duncan and Court had been picked to care for by Jyster, Duncan looked at Court with an almost proud expression at their efforts and back to his commanding officer. “Jorgeh and Wylem are good kids.” He said. “They’ve struggled the most in understanding what has happened. Some of the other kids blame them for Captain Jyster’s actions. They’ve found it hard to disassociate themselves to the isomorphic projection of their birth mother. I found Jorgeh out on the balcony the other night arguing with her for what she has done in forcing all of us together. It was heartbreaking to witness.”
“I bet.” McCallister said, feeling a sense of sadness for the teenager. He wondered if any of his own sons would be the same with him on their return.
“How’s Karyn?” Court asked almost straight away as he offered some of the food they had brought with them to him.
McCallister’s back stiffened up at the mention of his wife’s first name as he picked at some of the food on offer. Most of the senior staff were now on a first name basis with one another, something McCallister had suggested. His thinking behind it was two-fold. It was partly to make Jyster think that the crew were slowly transitioning over to their new lives while on the other side reducing the formality among the crew reduced some of the anxiety they had. Seeing that they were all in this together on a somewhat equal footing was important to him.
“She’s okay.” He answered flatly.
Both Court and Duncan looked at one another and then back to their captain. Both shared the same concern. Both were worried by his tone.
“JP, has it got any better between you two?” Duncan asked, using McCallister’s nickname that he allowed only a few of his closest friends to use. In the last two months McCallister had found himself building a stronger friendship with Duncan, Court and Slyvexs the most. As such, he had allowed only them to use his nickname when no-one else was in earshot.
Shrugging his shoulders, McCallister didn’t know how to answer it as he swallowed what he was eating. “We’re still living in separate beds and she’s not interested in any romantic gestures, but she did make me dinner the other night. The first time in weeks.”
“Small steps.” Court offered in between a mouthful.
“Yeah, but I need her onboard with us and it’s just so…” McCallister stopped himself from offloading as he reached for something else to eat.
Realising that he needed to talk about his marriage, Duncan encouraged McCallister to carry on. “James just spill it. We promise we won’t say anything to her.”
Shaking his head as he thought about his words, he eventually carried on. In part he knew both men would continue to insist so it was easier to just give in and share. “It’s just so frustrating. She’s so angry at me for negotiating with Jyster about the rest of us staying. The other week when she started screaming at me again, she told me I should have offered only those who didn’t have children to remain behind with me. It’s my fault our sons could be dead right now is another argument she throws at me. All I can do is sit there and take it. I’ve got no words to say back to her besides I’m sorry and she’s right. And just saying that seems to make things worse.”
“Ouch.” Court stated.
“Harsh.” Duncan added. Without realising it, he had slipped into his old role as a counsellor. “She’s not the only one venting her feelings, but the fact she made you dinner for the first time the other night is a good sign. As Tobie said, small steps. Is she still helping with that farming project being led by Lukiz and Cline?”
“Yeah, she’s even offered to teach a few science lessons at the school. She starts tomorrow.” Duncan answered.
“Good, at least you’ll have some common ground.” Duncan assured him as he picked up something that looked like a breadstick. “Did you want me or Tobie to talk to her?”
Shaking his head and waving his head, McCallister said no before carrying on with what he selected to eat. “I don’t want to bring my marital problems to the forefront of our plans.”
“Just don’t ignore them James.” Duncan remarked. “Once we get back home, you don’t want it to cause more tension when you’re trying to deal with boys.”
“And knowing your three, they’ll need that time with you both. Together.” Court said with a smirk.
“Yeah, you’re both right.” McCallister agreed. Once again he had that dreaded sense of truly missing his three sons. A sense of guilt flooded over him, something he tried to suppress so much. He then looked at both of his friends and tried to change the subject. “Fatherhood suits you two.”
“As we said, Jorgeh and Wylem are great. They’ve got their challenges but they’re good kids.” Court shared as he took Duncan’s hand into his. “In the last couple of months, we’ve really bonded with them. Max thinks it is some sort of weird version of Stockholm syndrome that we’re all sharing!”
McCallister joined Court and Duncan in an awkward chuckle at that remark. The last two months had drastically changed both of them. Not only had they gone public with their relationship but taking on the two boys had brought a side out of them that McCallister had never seen before. Parenthood definitely suited them. McCallister wondered what type of future they would have together. He just hoped it wasn’t the same one he was currently having with his wife.
“We’ve said it before, none of these kids deserve to be in this situation.” Duncan said after they calmed down. He looked at McCallister, “it’s why we wanted to see you today. We’ve got an idea we want to suggest.”
“Go on then.” McCallister insisted.
Court spoke up first, “I had a chat with Tremt the other day and we think we know how to keep CJ busy.”
Keeping his poker face on, McCallister was interested in hearing more of what Court had to say as he used their codename for Captain Jyster. So far she had not said anything to anyone about it. “Go on.”
“You know that argument we mentioned earlier, well he mentioned to me the other night when that was happening some of the crew noticed that certain systems weren’t as fully operational as others, if you catch my gist. When the farm was created it slowed down other things as well.” Court stated. “Do you get what I’m saying?”
“I think so. Are you stating that someone doesn’t have an unlimited ability to be aware of everything when lots of things are happening?” McCallister quizzed.
“We think so.” Duncan confirmed. “We want to test our theory too.”
“How?” McCallister wondered.
“I believe the words we want to remind ourselves with are: ‘Anything that is needed to help the young people, you can have. Just ask’.” Duncan said, quoting Jyster from over two months ago. She had shown her powers by using the ship’s powerful particle synthesisers in creating the many homes for the Odyssey crew and the children they would be caring for. Since then anything they asked for was provided for them. “If we can find a way to increase our wants, our demands then we could test to see how much our benevolent provider is able to supervise.”
“We can only get this to work if we get the message out to everyone to think big with their ideas. Tremt thinks the extra power needed to create more things, obviously for the good of the children, may be enough to have an impact on her programming’s focus to be divided up a lot as well as that he reckons that huge thermionic generator that’s powering all of this would feel the strain.” Court said.
“And how does this help us?” McCallister wondered.
“Cline shared that the secret entrance that Keli and the others from the hazard team had encountered when they first boarded was noticeable the same night Jorgeh had his meltdown. If we can distract CJ long enough, a small team might be able to gain access to other places.” Court shared. Again he remained coy in what he was saying.
Considering the idea for a moment, McCallister nodded with his approval. “If we do this, then it’s going to require a lot of planning and a lot of secrecy. I don’t want anyone getting harmed from this.”
“Leave it with us, we’ll see what we can do.” Duncan offered. “That said though James, there is one more thing Tobie and I want to discuss.”
McCallister insisted that his friends continued to share their thoughts. “Go ahead.”
Again both men looked at one another before Court spoke for them both. “Bring the children with us back to the Odyssey.”
Surprised to hear that, McCallister was taken back by it. “What do you mean?”
“If we get CJ in a certain position, we know her way of thinking is always about putting the wellbeing of the children first.” Duncan shared. “If we agree to take them all with us and care for them on the Odyssey then it may go a long way to getting us out of here.”
“Do you think the others would go for it?” McCallister quizzed them.
“We’ve spoken about it,” Duncan said, looking at Court in a loving way before returning his focus back to McCallister, “and we want the boys to remain with us. We know others feel the same way, like T’Rani and Samris. In some ways James, what’s happened to us here has only extended the family you built originally on the Odyssey crew. Those of us who didn’t have children before feel differently and we know that some who were parents before are adamant in protecting those who have been placed with them. Samris said his time in supporting so many of our crew to adjust to becoming parents overnight has reduced a lot over the last few weeks. People are getting used to the situation, and I don’t think they would want to leave these kids behind. If they came back to Odyssey with us then we’d be giving them the future they deserve and a chance to keep their people’s memories alive, the right way.”
Considering the idea further, McCallister stood up and placed his hands on his hips. “You want to take over a thousand young people onto the Odyssey?”
“The ship’s emergency capacity is for an extra twenty-thousand. The ship could easily manage it.” Court added.
“Tobie, I’m not just thinking about how much room we would need but also about the children we left behind whose parents are still here. How would they react to it all?” McCallister questioned. “I agree with the idea in principle, but there’s so many ramifications to consider.”
“James, I think you’re not giving yourself and the crew you’ve built enough credit for what they could do. Our ship helped take in thousands of Romulan refugees when Hobus destroyed Romulus. Our ship recently endured the bloodiest battle since its launch over thirteen years ago and our young people thrived. They’ve shown their passion for exploring this vastly unknown quadrant and I am certain when we return, we will find them all in one shape after working together ready for us to come home.” Duncan stated with a strong conviction in his voice.
“I hope so too, because if not all of the work we put in for the last thirteen years would be for nothing but I can’t make a decision on a hopeful whim.” McCallister returned back with.
“Then let’s talk to those who are with us now and see what they think. Let’s make this a collective decision.” Court proposed. “That way together we can work on everything, including any ramifications for when we return home.”
Nodding in agreement, McCallister suggested they finish their chat there and head back to the settlement and begin putting their ideas together and starting the work to get themselves off the Quirennal and back to the Odyssey.