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Immediately after waking, Lehman went to the boys' room to check on them and found that they were still asleep, snuggled together in the middle of the large bed.
With a tender smile on his face at the sight, Lehman left the room and went outside to the kitchen area to get something for breakfast.
"Are the boys still asleep?" Roger asked as he absently pulled the tops off of berries.
"Yes. I just checked on them." Lehman said as he rested against the countertop.
"Did they tell you why they ran away?" Roger asked curiously.
"No. They seemed to be fixated on the idea of finding a pirate ship. I don't think they trust us enough yet to talk to us." Lehman said thoughtfully.
"Perhaps they'll be more talkative now that they've had some sleep." Roger offered weakly, obviously not sure of it himself.
"I don't know what else to do but wait for them to be ready to talk about whatever is wrong. I don't think there's anything we can do to make them talk if they don't want to." Lehman said frankly.
"I may have a suggestion, if you wouldn't mind my intrusion into your conversation." Mycien said hesitantly.
"Of course, we would welcome any thoughts that you might have on the matter." Roger said upward.
"I discussed the situation with Mr. Korrigon last night, and he gave his permission for me to disclose this information and extend an invitation." Mycien said slowly.
"What can he do?" Lehman asked curiously.
"Before coming to the New Hope colony, Mr. Korrigon was one of the leaders of a band of mercenaries. Through a series of events that are not relevant to this discussion, he was separated from his comrades and came to be here, so he could start a new life." Mycien said carefully.
"How does that help?" Lehman asked with interest.
"He was, in essence, a pirate. Perhaps the boys might disclose their reasons for running away from home if he were to talk to them." Mycien said frankly.
There was a long moment of silence, then Roger said, "I suppose there would be nothing to lose by trying."
"So, do you think we should take the boys over to the inn to visit him?" Lehman asked thoughtfully.
"Mr. Korrigon suggested that you bring the boys to the New Hope Inn for breakfast. That would give you a believable excuse for being there and then they would have the opportunity to talk with Korrigon." Mycien said simply.
"Why were you speaking to Mr. Korrigon about the boys, anyway?" Lehman asked curiously.
"Their fascination with pirates prompted me to seek Mr. Korrigon's advice regarding their possible motives. He didn't have any insights into the matter, but voiced his willingness to help however he could." Mycien said seriously.
"Look who I found." JonJon said as he walked out the front door with the two boys following a step behind.
"Good morning, boys. Did you sleep well?" Roger asked with a smile.
Two sets of huge, black eyes looked up at Roger curiously.
"He wished you a good morning and asked if you slept well." JonJon said gently as his translator interpreted the message for the boys.
Lehman realized that he forgot to put on his translator necklace and hurried back into the house.
"I slept really good. Tern kept me warm." Ko said with a shy glance at the feathered boy at his side.
"I like sleeping with Ko. That way I'm not scared to be alone." Tern said timidly.
"They slept fine." JonJon said to Roger with a smile.
"Did Roger tell you about breakfast?" Lehman asked as he walked out of the house.
"No. What about it?" JonJon asked as he looked at Roger curiously.
"I'll let Lehman explain, so the boys will understand what's going on." Roger said as he took his bowl of berries to the sink to rinse them off.
Lehman smiled, then said, "We thought that since we have company this morning, we could go to the New Hope Inn and have a special breakfast."
"We're bad. We shouldn't have something special." Tern said regretfully.
JonJon and Lehman looked at the boys with surprise at the statement, but Lehman quickly recovered and said, "There's another reason for us to go there. The innkeeper used to be a pirate and he may be able to help you decide what you're going to do next."
Both boys looked up in excitement at the announcement and JonJon looked at Lehman curiously.
"If you boys need anything, I should be here all day. Cyril is going to be working half a day, so you'll be able to catch him at his office if you need him before lunchtime." Roger said as he portioned out two bowls of what appeared to be granola.
Lehman walked to Roger and gave him a firm hug as he said, "I love you, Other Dad."
"I love you as well, my son." Roger said as he returned the hug, then looked over to JonJon and said, "Both of you."
JonJon smiled at the words and quietly said, "I love you, too."
* * * * *
"It's cold here." Ko said as he held close to Tern's side.
"I know what you mean. It's just a little bit cooler than I'm used to. But from what I understand, it's just right for Humans." Lehman said conversationally.
"Is there really going to be a pirate where we're going?" Tern asked cautiously.
"From what I heard, Mr. Korrigon used to be a pirate but now he's an innkeeper. I don't really know much about it, but in just a few minutes, you'll be able to ask him for yourselves." Lehman said frankly.
JonJon looked at Lehman curiously, but didn't give voice to his questions.
* * * * *
"Good morning, gentlemen." Korrigon said happily as the group of boys entered the New Hope Inn.
"Good morning. Mr. Korrigon, I'd like for you to meet Tern and Ko. They're new friends of ours." Lehman said as he indicated the two small boys huddled together.
"You don't need to be afraid of me. I know I'm big, but I'd never ever hurt you." Korrigon said gently to the boys. Both JonJon and Lehman were surprised to find that Korrigon was wearing a translator pendant like theirs, although Tern and Ko seemed not to have noticed.
"I think they're more cold than afraid. I guess their home is warmer than this." JonJon explained quietly.
"Well, being hungry can't be helping with that. Why don't you boys come in and let me fix you some breakfast? Once you've eaten, we'll be able to sit down and have a nice long talk." Korrigon said pleasantly as he gestured for them to follow.
Tern and Ko remained silent as they followed Lehman and JonJon into the dining room.
Korrigon sat them in a booth near the back of the room before retreating through a door.
"There's lots of people, and they're all like you." Tern whispered as he looked around the dining room curiously.
Lehman smiled and said, "Tern, we're all the same on the inside. JonJon and I aren't Human, but we're the same as all the rest of these people in all the ways that count."
Tern looked at Lehman with confusion, obviously not getting the point that he was trying to make.
"I think what Lehman is trying to say is that even though you two might look different from the Humans, what makes us alike is more important than what makes us different." JonJon said seriously.
Tern closed his impossibly huge eyes and scooted a little bit closer to Ko and held him tightly.
"What's wrong?" Lehman asked cautiously.
"He's sad, that's all." Ko said as he held his friend close and rubbed his cheek against the top of Tern's head.
"I hope everyone likes glurrah juice." Korrigon said as he placed glasses around the table.
Lehman's eyes went wide and he immediately picked up his glass for a taste.
"Are you boys still cold? I have a blanket in my office if you need it." Korrigon offered gently.
"We're not too cold." Ko said for both of them.
Korrigon didn't seem to be convinced, but left their table, nonetheless.
* * * * *
"Can you tell us what's wrong?" JonJon asked cautiously.
"I think Tern is missing his brother." Ko said quietly.
"I bet that if you wanted, we could find a way to call your brother so you could talk to him. That way you could let him know that you're okay." Lehman said gently.
"No. He'd talk to Tern's parents and they'd make us come home and we can't do that." Ko said as he held Tern protectively to his side.
Before Lehman could think of how to respond to that, Korrigon walked up to the table with a tray of plates.
"I forgot to ask you what you wanted, so I just gave an educated guess. Let me know if there's anything you don't like." Korrigon said as he placed the plates before the boys.
"Everything looks good, even though I don't know what any of it is." Lehman said with a smile at Korrigon.
"Well, Tern has a seed roll with a side of berries. Ko got the breakfast bite rolls, they're kind of our best attempt at pigs in a blanket. Lehman and JonJon got breakfast sandwiches and pan fried Jushu chips." Korrigon said seriously, then withdrew from the table.
Cautiously, Tern let loose his grip on Ko and picked up his seed roll. After one bite, it seemed that nothing existed for him except for the food on the table before him.
Ko picked up one of the small, oddly shaped rolls on his plate and smelled it before cautiously taking a bite. A smile broke out on his face, then he quickly popped the rest of the roll into his mouth.
JonJon and Lehman smiled at the fact that both of the boys seemed to be enjoying their food, then they turned their attention to their own breakfast.
"These are wonderful!" Lehman said with surprise after tasting one of the Jushu chips.
"Have you tried the sandwich yet?" JonJon asked with his mouth half full.
Rather than answer verbally, Lehman picked up his breakfast sandwich and took a big bite.
"Mmmm." Lehman groaned at the taste.
"We've got to get Dad and Other Dad to come here for breakfast, so maybe they'll get some ideas of some other things to fix. Their cooking hasn't been bad, but I'm getting tired of having the same few things day after day." JonJon said frankly.
"Yeah. I didn't really notice it before, but it's nice to have something different for a change." Lehman agreed.
"How are you guys doing?" JonJon asked their two younger guests.
"This is really good. I didn't know I was this hungry." Tern said before popping another berry into his mouth.
"It's the same for me." Lehman said with a chuckle before eating another of the Jushu chips.
* * * * *
"I think the breakfast rush is just about over, so I can sit and talk with you guys for a minute if you like." Korrigon said as he stopped in front of their table.
"Yes. I think the boys had some questions that you might know the answers to." Lehman said frankly.
As Korrigon scooted into the booth, Lehman and JonJon automatically scooted over to make room for him.
"Did everyone like the food?" Korrigon asked, directing his question mostly to the two younger boys.
"It was really really good." Tern squawked.
"Ssssank oo." Ko said as he looked into Korrigon's eyes to convey his sincerity.
"I'm glad you enjoyed it. Now, tell me, what did you want to ask me about?" Korrigon asked with a smile.
"Lehman said you used to be a pirate." Ko said simply.
"Something like that, yes." Korrigon said with a nod.
"We want to be pirates. Can you help us?" Tern asked hopefully.
"Maybe. But first I'd need to know 'why' you want to be pirates." Korrigon said simply.
Ko and Tern looked at each other, and neither seemed to know if they should.
"Becoming a pirate is serious business. If you become a pirate for the wrong reason, then you might find yourselves stuck somewhere you don't want to be." Korrigon said seriously.
After another silent conference, Ko finally looked at Korrigon and said, "Pirates are bad people. We're bad people. So we should be pirates."
"Why do you think you're bad people?" Korrigon asked cautiously.
Neither Tern nor Ko seemed to be inclined to answer his question.
"If you're going to be pirates, they're going to want to know these things, too, so they'll know if you're bad enough to join them." Korrigon said in an urging tone.
"I'm bad because I love Tern." Ko whispered as tears started welling up in his enormous eyes.
"Why does being in love make you a bad person?" Korrigon asked gently.
"Because when you love someone, you're supposed to marry them. I love Tern and I want to marry him someday. But I heard my Mommy and Daddy say that a Soleen and an Avalla can't get married or even live together like they're married. Mommy and Daddy said that it's against the law. If it's against the law, then it's bad. And if I want to do it anyway, then I'm bad. The only bad people I ever heard about is pirates, so if we're gonna get married someday, we need to be pirates." Ko rambled.
JonJon, Lehman and Korrigon shared an uncertain look at the young boy's logic.
"I love Ko and I want to be with him forever." Tern said softly as he held Ko firmly to his side.
"I'll need to check on some things before I can help you with your pirate situation. If you'll check back with me later today, I'll let you know what I've found out." Korrigon said to the older boys, more than the younger.
"Yeah. Tern and Ko were wanting to go to the spaceport, so we can stop back here after that." Lehman said frankly.
"If you stop in around lunchtime, I'll feed you, then we can sit down and talk after you've eaten."
"We'll need to check with our Dad, he might not want us spending all those rations." JonJon said before Lehman could accept the invitation.
"Don't worry about it, I invited you, so it's on me." Korrigon said with a smile.
JonJon seemed to be uncertain if he should accept the invitation when Korrigon said, "Think of it this way, I'm only doing what I wish someone had done for me. If someone had taken an interest and helped me think through my decisions, my life might have turned out very differently."
"Okay. We'll be here." JonJon said with a smile at Korrigon.
"And you two..." Korrigon said as he stood, "...come here and give me hugs, before you go."
"Lehman said that hugs mean you care about us and that you'll protect us." Ko said as he looked up at Korrigon with his enormous trusting eyes.
"Yes. That's right." Korrigon said as he gently hugged the small Saurian boy.
Tern timidly walked up to Korrigon and was pulled into a hug with his other arm.
"You boys be careful out there and come back and see me this afternoon." Korrigon said softly as he held the boys.
When the hug broke, Ko looked up and slowly said, "Ssssank oo, MissssterrRRrr KorrRRrree-gun."
Korrigon couldn't seem to resist and gave Ko and Tern each a kiss on the top of their heads before hurrying away.
* * * * *
"Are you boys warm enough?" JonJon asked with concern as they walked down the street.
Both boys seemed to consider the question before responding with identical nods.
They walked for a few more minutes in silence before Lehman quietly said, "You know, I don't think that being in love can make you a bad person."
"Then why did they make a law that says we can't get married?" Tern asked simply.
"I don't know about that, Tern. But maybe JonJon and I will be able to do a little research and find out for you." Lehman said seriously.
"Laws are made by people." JonJon said, drawing the boys' attention to him, then continued, "When people are making laws, they try to figure out what they believe as a group is right and wrong. But sometimes, they make mistakes. When that happens, people work to change the laws."
"You can't change the law." Ko said in astonishment.
"Sure you can. If everyone agrees that it's a stupid law, they can decide together that it's wrong and change it." JonJon said frankly.
"Maybe it's different in their society." Lehman said cautiously.
"Oh. Maybe." JonJon said uncertainly.
"I need to use the toilet." Ko said timidly as they walked.
Lehman looked around where they were walking and spotted a sign that indicated a transit station not far away. Even though he couldn't read the language, he had become familiar enough with the symbol to know the basic meaning.
"Let's transport to my house so you can use the bathroom, then we can walk to the spaceport from there." Lehman suggested as he changed direction.
"I don't need a bath." Ko said immediately.
Lehman chuckled, then said, "In Human homes, they usually have a bath or a shower in the same room as the toilet. So they call it the bathroom, no matter what they're going to be doing in there."
The boys seemed to accept the answer and didn't say anything more as they approached the transit station.
"Lehman Byrne." Lehman said to the control panel.
When the display showed his personal preferences, he pressed in the selection for his house.
"Come on." Lehman said as he led the way to the transportal pad.
The boys followed without comment and a moment later were whisked away in a shower of sparkles.
* * * * *
"Where are we?" Ko asked as he looked around.
"This is my house." Lehman said proudly.
"Don't you live with your dads?" Ko asked curiously.
"Yes. But JonJon and I each have houses of our own, too. When we moved here, there were more houses than people, so each of us got to have houses of our own." Lehman explained as he led the way into the house.
"Could Ko and I have a house?" Tern asked hopefully.
Before Lehman could answer, JonJon said, "I don't know if the other members of the colony would want to have pirates living here."
Lehman looked at JonJon with a smile, then nodded his agreement.
As the group approached the central room of the house, Lehman said, "The toilet is in there. JonJon and I will be in the living room when you're finished."
Ko and Tern hurried into the bathroom and closed the door behind them.
* * * * *
"What's going on, Mycien?" JonJon asked into the air as soon as he and Lehman were alone in the living room.
"David and I were just discussing what the boys revealed during breakfast." Mycien said frankly.
"David?" Lehman asked curiously.
"Yes. That is Mr. Korrigon's first name. I was just explaining to him that the Soleen-Avalla have a taboo about inter-species relationships. The boys are correct that it is currently illegal for them to marry or even cohabitate. Although, the prohibition would only apply to them once they reach adulthood." Mycien said seriously.
"So, even if we can talk them out of becoming pirates, they really do have a legitimate concern for their future." JonJon said speculatively.
"Yes. If their feelings toward each other don't change over time, it would seem that they do." Mycien said gravely.
"What are the chances that the Soleen-Avalla would change the law before the boys grow up?" Lehman asked curiously.
"I cannot speculate as to that. The elders are entrusted with making the laws for our people. They do not reverse their decisions often or without good reason." Mycien said regretfully.
"But we don't have any laws like that here. Could they stay here?" Lehman asked thoughtfully.
"They are too young to live away from their parents, and it would cause them irreparable harm to be outcasts from their own people." Mycien said seriously.
"Yes. Of course you're right." Lehman said with a sigh.
Before anymore could be said, Tern and Ko walked into the living room, hand in hand.
"Are you boys ready to go to the Spaceport now?" JonJon asked with a smile.
Both boys nodded happily.
"Come on, then." JonJon said as he led the way toward the door.
* * * * *
"Is that a pirate ship?" Tern asked as he looked at the large ship being unloaded at the spaceport.
"No. That's a cargo ship of supplies from your world." JonJon said frankly, then added, "I work with Dad and Other Dad during the day and I remember us expecting a supply ship to arrive today." JonJon said honestly.
"You have a job?" Ko asked with surprise.
"Yes. I only look like I'm this young. I'm actually older than either of our fathers." JonJon said seriously.
Both boys stared at JonJon, obviously trying to decide if they believed him or not.
"You said that you know Jenn. She's an android, too. In one hundred years, she'll look exactly the same as she does right now. We don't change." JonJon said frankly.
"You don't act old." Ko said thoughtfully.
JonJon smiled at the statement, then said, "I don't feel old, either."
"Well, it doesn't look like there are any pirate ships here today. Why don't we go back to the inn? It should be about lunch time when we get there. Maybe Mr. Korrigon has come up with some ideas about how to help you." Lehman said with a smile.
At the mention of food, Ko and Tern shared a long look, then turned and nodded in unison.
* * * * *
"What is he? Is there something wrong with him?" Tern asked as he stared at the next table with impossibly wide eyes.
JonJon followed his gaze to where a couple were sitting, looking at their menus.
"That's Mr. and Mrs. Nosk. Mr. Nosk looks different because he's a Tellarite." JonJon said simply.
"But his wife isn't of his people?" Tern asked cautiously.
"No. I think she's human... but I'm not sure. I don't remember anyone ever saying." JonJon said thoughtfully.
"Hey guys." Korrigon said pleasantly as he walked by carrying a tray of food.
"Hi!" Both boys responded happily.
"We need to look at the menus and decide what we want for lunch before he comes back." JonJon said thoughtfully.
"I want another seed roll. That was good!" Tern said immediately.
"Mine was good, too." Ko interjected.
"Mr. Korrigon may have something even better for us for lunch." Lehman said frankly.
JonJon noticed that Tern was holding his menu upside down, but didn't say anything, not wanting to embarrass him.
"Have you guys decided what you'd like?" Korrigon asked pleasantly as he returned to the table.
"I don't know what most of it is." Lehman said honestly.
"Well, then, how about a homestyle lunch for four? I can bring you a variety of lunch foods and you can try different things and choose the things that you like best." Korrigon asked with a smile.
"Sounds good to me. Is that alright with everyone?" JonJon asked as he closed his menu and set it aside.
"Yeah." Lehman said happily as Tern and Ko followed JonJon's example and set down their menus.
"It'll be out in just a minute. When you're done eating, I'll sit down with you and we'll discuss more serious things." Korrigon said as he picked up the menus from around the table.
* * * * *
"Are Mr. and Mrs. Nosk married?" Tern asked as he turned to look at the couple again.
"I suppose so. I really don't know much about them. They were with us at the old Kimber IV colony, but I don't think I ever talked to them. I just know who they are." JonJon said frankly.
Tern seemed to be lost in thought and Ko was looking at him curiously when two waiters arrived with a serving platter, filled with different foods and plates for each of them.
"Even if this wasn't the only restaurant in the colony, I'd still want to come here. The food is wonderful and the service is great." JonJon said with a hungry look at the variety before them.
"Thanks. Korrigon is working really hard to make this the kind of place where everyone can feel like they belong." One of the waiters said pleasantly. Before he withdrew, Lehman noticed that his name badge was handwritten and said 'Tyzo'.
"Do you know what any of this is?" Lehman asked as he looked at the platter curiously.
"This stuff at the end looks familiar. But after last night I'm betting that all of it's good." JonJon said frankly, then looked at the younger boys and said, "Go ahead and help yourselves. Eat as much as you like."
"Mommy always gets my food for me, so I don't make a mess." Tern quietly chirped.
"Well, if you want to go ahead and try to do it for yourself, you can. But if you think you'll make a mess, JonJon or I will do it for you." Lehman said seriously.
After a moment to consider, Tern reached forward and started to serve himself.
It appeared that Ko wanted to see how Tern did at serving himself before he was willing to try.
Lehman and JonJon both waited, in case the boys had any difficulty. When the boys were finished, Lehman, and then JonJon, helped themselves to generous portions.
* * * * *
"How is everyone doing over here? Does anyone need some more glurrah juice or would you like something from the drink bar?" One of the waiters asked pleasantly. Lehman noticed that this one had a name badge that said 'Mack'.
"No. This is fine. Everything is wonderful." Lehman said immediately.
"What did he say?" Ko asked curiously.
"He just wanted to know if we'd like some more to drink." JonJon said quietly.
Ko immediately picked up his glass and drained the last half of it, seemingly in one gulp. Then held out the empty glass to Mack.
"I'll be right back with that." Mack said as he tried to fight down a chuckle.
"Thank you." Lehman said after him.
"Ssssank oo." Ko parroted.
"Is everyone enjoying their lunch? Can I get you anything?" Korrigon asked as he approached the table.
"We're fine. It's a very good meal. Thank you for inviting us." JonJon said sincerely.
"The lunch rush is nearly over, so I should be able to join you in a few minutes. Please feel free to order dessert when you're finished if you're still hungry." Korrigon said warmly.
"Do you have a terminal that I can use for a few minutes? If I can, I'd like to make a quick call to check something out." Lehman asked quickly.
"Well, you can actually make a call from just about anywhere. Mycien has holographic projectors all over the place. But if you want some privacy, come with me. I know just the place." Korrigon said amiably.
"Thank you." Lehman said as he stood, then looked back at JonJon and said, "I'll be right back.
"We'll be fine." JonJon assured him.
* * * * *
"Hello... Lehman?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Hi. I need to talk to you for a minute. Is now a good time?" Lehman asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I'm kind of between things right now. What's up?" Vincent asked as he typed something quickly on his terminal.
"We've got these two kids here, one's Soleen and the other's Avalla. They say they're in love, but the Soleen-Avalla have a law that says that they can't get married because they're not the same species. Since you're so good at solving problems, I thought you might have an idea of what we can do." Lehman said seriously.
Lehman watched silently for a moment as Vincent thought about it, and waited expectantly when he seemed to have come up with an idea.
"If T'Lani and I were both humans and were both on Earth, we couldn't get married. There are laws that say you have to be a certain age." Vincent said carefully.
"Yeah." Lehman said slowly.
"But we are married." Vincent said in a leading tone.
"Yeah." Lehman said again.
Vincent rolled his eyes, then said, "If your friends can find someplace that will marry them, then there's no problem."
"Who would marry them?" Lehman asked helplessly.
"You said that they're Soleen and Avalla, right?" Vincent asked seriously.
"Yeah." Lehman confirmed.
"Then they could probably get married anywhere except in Soleen-Avalla space." Vincent said frankly.
"Like here." Lehman said in realization.
"Probably." Vincent said with a nod.
"Thanks, Vincent. I knew you'd be able to figure it out." Lehman said with relief.
"I've always got your back." Vincent said with a smile.
"And if you ever need me for anything, I'll have yours too." Lehman said warmly.
"I knew that." Vincent said with a cheeky grin, then quickly asked, "How are things with Benny and JonJon?"
"The same." Lehman said wearily.
"Too bad I'm not there to kick them in the butts." Vincent said frankly.
"Yeah. Too bad." Lehman agreed.
"I've got to go. Darin needs a break." Vincent said quickly.
"Call me when you get a chance." Lehman hurried to say.
"Got it. Yorktown out." Vincent said before the screen went dark.
* * * * *
"Did your call go well?" JonJon asked curiously.
"Yes. I don't know if it will work, but he gave me something to think about." Lehman said as he took his seat again.
"Do you guys mind if I join you?" Korrigon asked as he approached the table.
"It's your place. You can sit wherever you want." Lehman said before taking a bite of his food.
"I guess I can." Korrigon said with a smile, then scooted in so that he was sitting beside Ko, on the other side from Tern.
"Is your call something that Korrigon can help us with?" JonJon asked Lehman curiously.
After a moment of thought, Lehman said, "I really don't know. Some of this has to do with the law, so we might need Dad to help us."
"Are you going to tell on us?" Ko asked with wide terrified eyes.
"No, Ko. I just need to do some checking about what the law is and how it works in a particular case." Lehman said gently.
"So, what did you come up with?" Korrigon asked with interest.
"Well, I talked to Vincent about it and he said that if he and his wife were both humans, on earth, then they wouldn't be allowed to get married." Lehman said frankly.
"I suppose that's right." JonJon said carefully, then added, "But I don't see how that helps us."
"I'm not sure that it does. But what we need to find out is if there were an interspecies couple who got married here at New Hope, if they'd still be considered married by the Soleen-Avalla." Lehman said frankly.
"If you would allow it, I could make some inquiries from Soleena on the subject." Mycien offered carefully.
"Yes. I don't think that there would be any harm asking." Korrigon said seriously.
"So. Do you think it could work?" Lehman asked Korrigon hopefully.
"It's hard to know. A lot of times things like this come down to feelings rather than reason. That's tougher to predict." Korrigon said honestly.
"What are you talking about?" Ko asked curiously.
"I'm sorry. We got to talking about some things that might help you." JonJon said honestly.
"Do you know if some pirates are coming here?" Ko asked hopefully.
"No. We haven't figured out anything about pirates, but... well, give us some time to look into a few things before we try to explain. We wouldn't want to tell you something and then find out that it was wrong." Korrigon said slowly.
"David, may I interrupt for a moment?" Mycien asked cautiously.
"Of course. What's going on?" Korrigon asked cautiously.
"I have an incoming transmission from the Soleen-Avalla Council of Elders." Mycien said hesitantly.
"Oh. Um, we'd better not keep them waiting, then." Korrigon said as worry filled his expression.
A holographic image of an elderly Soleen man appeared in the middle of their table.
"I am Graak'Celess, one of the Soleen-Avalla elders. More importantly, at the moment, Ko is my great-grandchild. First, allow me to give my thanks for all your efforts on Ko's behalf. His interpretation of our laws has cast an alarming light on a subject that most of us would have preferred to disregard. Be that as it may, now that it has surfaced, I have discussed the matter with the other elders. It is unfortunate that we cannot reverse our decision at this time, but this taboo is too deeply rooted in our society for that to be possible. With our encouragement and the passage of time, it is my hope that we will one day be able to repeal the law and allow all our people to openly love whom they choose."
"If a Soleen and an Avalla got married at New Hope, would they still be married if they went back to Soleena?" Korrigon asked carefully.
After a moment to consider, Graak'Celess finally said, "I will have to discuss the matter with the other elders, but from our discourse thus far, I believe that they might be inclined to accept that compromise. Should they agree, no official announcement will be made, but if a mixed-species couple were to marry at the New Hope colony, the marriage would be recognized as legitimate by the Soleen-Avalla empire."
"Thank you." Korrigon said sincerely.
"Hi Grandpa!" Ko said as he waved.
Graak'Celess turned to face his great-grandson and tenderly said, "Hello, Ko. When you get back home, make sure that you stop by and see me. We're overdue for a nice long visit."
"Okay! I will! I love you, Grandpa!" Ko said loudly.
"I love you, too." Graak'Celess said before the hologram faded.
* * * * *
Everyone sat around the table in silence for a few minutes as the enormity of what they'd just accomplished began to sink in.
"I guess we need to talk to Dad now and make sure that Soleens and Avallas can get married here." Lehman finally said.
"Yes. We have been working under that assumption." JonJon said carefully.
"Let me know if there's anything I can do to help you boys." Korrigon said seriously as he stood.
"We couldn't have done this much without you. Thank you for everything." JonJon said sincerely.
"And thank you for the food. It was fantastic!" Lehman interjected happily.
"It was my pleasure." Korrigon said before walking to another table to check on them.
* * * * *
"Are you going to take us to the pirates now?" Ko asked as they left the New Hope Inn.
"No. Lehman, Korrigon and I have figured out that you may not have to become pirates, if you don't want to be." JonJon said carefully.
"But Tern and I want to be together." Ko said quietly.
"I know. We're still working on that. If what we're doing goes right, then you and Tern will be able to stay together for as long as you want." Lehman said gently.
"Can we get married?" Tern asked cautiously.
"That's what we're going to find out next." JonJon said seriously.
* * * * *
"Hi Dad. We need to talk to you when you have a minute." Lehman said into the door of the office.
"We've been finished for a few minutes, we're just chatting. Please come in." Cyril said from behind his desk.
Lehman cautiously walked in, followed by JonJon, Tern and Ko.
"I don't remember if you've met Torbjørn Johanson." Cyril said as he indicated the man before his desk.
"Of course I know JonJon, but I haven't had the pleasure of meeting the rest." Torbjørn said frankly.
"Tor, I'd like to introduce my son, Lehman and our guests Tern and Ko." Cyril said proudly.
"It's a pleasure to meet all of you. I believe I will take my leave so you can spend some time with Cyril." Torbjørn said pleasantly.
"Please don't go. There's something that you may be able to help us with." JonJon said quickly.
At Lehman's look of question, JonJon explained, "Mr. Johanson is the leader of the entire colony. If anyone can help us, it's him."
"JonJon, would you please call me Tor?" He asked hopefully.
"I'll try." JonJon said with a weak smile.
"Well, what is it that we can help you with today?" Cyril asked curiously.
"First thing we need to know is if Tern and Ko could get married at New Hope." Lehman said bluntly.
"How old did Jenn say they were? Four years old?" Cyril asked cautiously.
"We're not asking about that. If they were, let's say, twenty, but from two different species, could they get married here?" Lehman asked seriously.
Cyril and Torbjørn looked at each other for a moment before Torbjørn finally responded, "I can't think of any reason why they couldn't."
"The way our laws are set up, people are free to take any action that isn't expressly forbidden. Since there's no law that forbids a Soleen and Avalla union, or any interspecies union, for that matter, then they would be free to get married as long as they could meet the conditions to enter into any other legally binding contract." Cyril said carefully.
"In this case, their age would be all that prevents them." Torbjørn said with a nod of agreement.
"What are they talking about?" Tern asked quietly.
"I asked them if you and Ko can get married when you get older." Lehman said simply.
"What did they say?" Ko asked with excitement.
"Yes." Lehman answered, then smiled as Tern and Ko immediately hugged.
"You can't get married right now, you're still too young. But when you're older, if you still want to, you can come back here and get married." JonJon said seriously.
Both boys stilled for a moment, thinking over the words, then Ko hesitantly asked, "Did my grandpa say that if we got married here, we could still go home?"
"Yes. At least, he thinks so. I'm sure that by the time you get married they'll have that all sorted out. But if they don't let you, then you can just live here with us." Lehman said happily.
"Excuse me for interrupting, but it may be relevant to your conversation." Mycien said quietly.
"Go ahead, Mycien." Cyril said upward.
"Mr. Korrigon, from the New Hope Inn was involved in our earlier discussions on this matter. He has since inquired about the qualifications for being able to issue marriage licenses and officiate wedding ceremonies." Mycien said carefully.
Torbjørn and Cyril looked at each other blankly for a moment, then broke into matching smiles.
"What is it?" Lehman asked curiously.
"Just a moment." Cyril said as he pulled up some plans on his computer.
Everyone waited as he looked at the screen, then asked into the air, "Mycien, could you ask Roger to either come to my office or contact me immediately? I have a question for him."
"I'm not able to leave the office right now. What did you need?" Roger's hologram asked as it formed on Cyril's desk.
"If one were interested in creating a picturesque venue for a wedding, where in the colony would you think it best to focus?" Cyril asked seriously.
"A wedding? I suppose any one of the public gardens. I can't think of a more beautiful location anywhere." Roger said thoughtfully.
"I agree. I don't know much about wedding preparations, but I would imagine that there would need to be some storage for things like tables and chairs and the like." Cyril said thoughtfully.
"I suppose it depends on the type of ceremony and if there's going to be a reception." Roger said speculatively.
"I'm speaking in general, how much storage space do you think a person would need if he were planning to host weddings and receptions on a regular basis?" Cyril asked slowly.
"On a regular basis? I suppose that any one of the standard warehouse facilities would be just about right." Roger said consideringly.
"Thank you. That's just what I needed to know." Cyril said happily.
"What did you need to know for?" Roger asked curiously.
"Remind me and I'll tell you tonight." Cyril said as he started typing on his terminal again.
"I can't wait." Roger chuckled, then his hologram faded.
"What are you doing?" JonJon asked curiously.
Cyril held up a hand, then called into the air, "Mycien, has Korrigon submitted the requests to issue marriage licenses and officiate weddings?"
"He is in the process of doing so now." Mycien said efficiently.
"Good. On my terminal I have just commandeered four vacant properties for public use. Please let Korrigon know that the properties will be specifically used to store wedding and reception supplies. If he is interested, he can submit a request and they will be available for him to use, free of charge." Cyril said with a smile.
"I will do so." Mycien said simply.
"What are you doing?" JonJon asked curiously.
"The New Hope colony is just starting out and doesn't really have any industry, as such. We're hopeful that the glurrah vineyards will eventually provide a good cash crop, but we can't hang our entire future on that." Cyril explained carefully.
"So you're going to have weddings?" Lehman asked carefully.
"We're going to prepare for that possibility. We have many beautiful locations. We're remote and may be looked upon as being somewhat exotic. If we can encourage the colonists to make a welcoming place for visitors, then I think we'll have all that we need to become an attractive wedding destination for people from all over the Federation." Cyril said seriously.
"And all we have to do is set aside some property and do a little planning now to make everything else go as smoothly as possible. And if it doesn't come to be, we haven't lost any great investment." Torbjørn said with a nod of approval.
"I have to use the toilet." Tern said suddenly.
"We've got to go. We'll see you back at the house." JonJon said with a smile.
"Thank you for stopping by." Cyril said warmly as he stepped around his desk and proceeded to hug each boy.
* * * * *
After a stop at Lehman's house for both boys to take a bathroom break, JonJon led them across the street to Cyril and Roger's house.
Tern had immediately taken the afghan off the back of the couch and wrapped himself and Ko in it before they sat.
"Okay. I think we've got everything worked out for you." Lehman said as he sat down and got comfortable.
"Did they tell you when the pirates will be here?" Ko asked curiously.
"No. What they told me is that you don't have to become pirates." Lehman said frankly.
"But we're bad." Ko said in confusion.
"No, you're not. You said that you think you're bad because you love Tern and you want to be with him and the law says that you can't." Lehman said carefully.
Ko reluctantly nodded.
"Well, we just checked with your great-grandfather, who is your elder, and Torbjørn, who is our elder, and they both said that if you and Tern want to be together when you grow up, that you can come back here, to New Hope and get married if you want to. Since they both said that it's okay, then that proves that you aren't bad for wanting to be together and that you don't have to become pirates." Lehman explained.
"We ran away. What do we do now?" Tern chirped quietly.
"If you want, we could ask your brother to take you home." JonJon said gently.
"But he'll be mad at us for running away." Tern clucked in almost a mumble.
"We could talk to him first and explain things. Then maybe he'd understand that you were just doing what you had to do so that you could stay together." Lehman offered quietly.
"I'm scared." Tern clucked as tears began to well in his impossibly large eyes.
"We'll make sure that your brother isn't mad before we'll let him take you." Lehman assured him.
"No. I'm not scared of him. I'm scared of what my mommy and daddy are going to do." Tern said honestly.
"Mine, too." Ko quietly added.
"I think that if we tell your brother and make him understand, that he can explain to your parents before you get back home." JonJon said gently.
"If they're too mad at us, can we come back here?" Tern asked hopefully.
"Sure. You can come back here any time you want." Lehman said with a smile.
JonJon nodded his agreement.
* * * * *
"We need to make one stop before we go to the spaceport." Lehman said as they left the house.
"Where are we going?" Tern asked as he looked around.
"Just to the next block. Our friend Benny lives there." Lehman said as he led the way.
"It's cold here." Tern said as he huddled into himself.
"I'm sorry that you're cold, but we'll only be here for a few minutes, then we'll be going to the spaceport." Lehman said frankly.
"Why are we going to Benny's house?" JonJon asked curiously.
"Because he's our friend." Lehman said simply.
JonJon didn't seem to be convinced that it was a valid reason, but didn't go to the trouble of arguing.
* * * * *
"Hi Lehman." Hailey said with a grand smile.
"Hi Hailey, is your brother home?" Lehman asked hesitantly.
"I don't know. You can come in and look for him if you want." Hailey said as she held the door open wide.
"Hailey, these guys are Tern and Ko." Lehman said as they walked past her.
"They're so cute! I want one!" Hailey said in baby talk.
"Benny's room is back here." Lehman said as he led the way.
Tern and Ko rushed away from Hailey and past JonJon as quickly as they could.
* * * * *
"Benny, can we come in?" Lehman asked from the doorway.
"Sure. What's up?" Benny asked curiously.
"I just wanted for you to meet Tern and Ko." Lehman said frankly.
"It's nice to meet you guys." Benny said with a smile.
"He said 'It's nice to meet you'." Lehman translated.
"He's nice." Tern said frankly.
"I think so, too." Lehman said honestly, then said to Benny, "We're going to take the boys to the ship and wanted to know if you wanted to come with us."
Benny thought about it for a moment, then said, "Yeah. Sure."
"We're ready when you are." Lehman said frankly.
* * * * *
"Why do I have to go along?" Hailey whined.
"Because you can't stay home by yourself and no one else will take you." Benny said bluntly.
"I'm gonna tell Mom you said that!" Hailey blustered.
"Go for it. You can call her when we get home, if you want." Benny said tiredly.
"But we're not supposed to." Hailey said cautiously.
"We can't call her every day, all the time, but we're allowed to call now and then. If you want to when we get home, it's fine." Benny said casually.
"Thanks, Benny." Hailey whispered.
"What's wrong? What are they saying?" Ko asked curiously.
"Their family got hurt, they're just talking about calling them tonight." Lehman said softly.
"I miss my family." Ko said quietly.
"You'll be seeing them soon." Lehman assured him.
* * * * *
When the group approached the spaceport, they could see that the ship had landed and the gangplank was extended.
"Hi, guys!" Jenn said as they approached.
"Hi Jenn." Lehman said with a smile, then turned to the boys and asked, "You remember Jenn, don't you."
"Hi, Jenn." Both boys said pleasantly.
"I was just going back to the ship, do you want to come with me?" Jenn asked as she started to walk.
"Do we need to call them and tell them that we're all coming?" JonJon asked with concern.
"No. They're expecting us. I already told them." Jenn said frankly.
"Are you sure that you want us to go with you?" Benny asked Lehman anxiously.
"We stick together." Lehman said simply.
Benny looked at JonJon uncertainly for a moment, then quietly said, "Yeah, I guess we do."
"I'm sorry." Lehman said as they continued to walk.
"For what?" Benny asked curiously.
"I don't know. Maybe I did something or could have done something to make things be different."
"It's not you, Lehman. Everything is in a holding pattern until JonJon makes the next move. I don't think any of us like it, but he's the only one who can change it." Benny said frankly.
"I guess because it affects me, that I feel like I should be able to affect it." Lehman tried to explain.
"It'd be nice if it worked that way. But it doesn't." Benny said honestly.
Further conversation stopped as they walked up the ramp into the enormous ship.
* * * * *
"Treep!" Tern crowed as he broke away from the others and ran to hug his brother.
Ko was just a few steps behind and hugged Treep's legs just as enthusiastically.
"Benny, you haven't met the crew before. May I introduce Captain Rasch and his first officer, Treep." Jenn said professionally.
"Nice to meet you." Benny said as he stared at the enormous Saurian.
"Thank you, all of you, for helping our young ones find their way." Captain Rasch said through his translator pendant.
"It was our honor and pleasure to be able to assist." JonJon said diplomatically.
"None of us had an inkling of what might have been bothering the boys. You really have helped us tremendously and we are grateful." Treep said with the aid of his translator as he looked around the group.
Benny noticed that the feathered young man seemed to have stopped and focused on him.
"What was your name again?" Treep finally asked.
"I'm Benny Summers and this is my sister, Hailey." Benny said quietly.
"So, you're an older brother, too. It provides many challenges, doesn't it?" Treep asked with a strangely warm grin.
"Yeah. A lot more challenges than I expected." Benny chuckled.
JonJon turned his attention away from Captain Rasch and Jenn for a moment and looked from Treep to Benny and back.
"Are you guys allowed to get off the ship, or is this as far as you're allowed to go?" Benny asked curiously.
"I don't think anyone but Jenn has asked to be allowed to leave the ship. But as far as I know, there is no restriction when we visit." Treep said honestly.
"Next time you're here, maybe we can go and do something." Benny said hopefully.
"I believe I would like that." Treep said with a more prominent smile.
"The boys should be on their way home, to see their families." JonJon said seriously.
"Oh, okay." Benny said with a glance at JonJon, then smiled at Treep and said, "Next time."
Treep nodded, then began to guide the boys into the ship.
* * * * *
"Well, what did you think about that?" Benny asked his sister with a smile.
"I don't know what to think about it. The captain was so big." Hailey said quietly.
"At least they were nice." Benny said somewhat distantly.
JonJon glanced back at Benny, then increased his pace as he walked.
"Am I going to have to make my legs longer so I can keep up with you?" Lehman asked as he began to hurry.
JonJon didn't answer as he fought back the tears in his eyes.
I am so happy for Ko and Tern. They love one another and if their love continues, they can do the right thing.
It's sad to see that JonJon and Bennie haven't worked out their situation, though. JonJon must be feeling pretty bad, since I think he has feelings for both Bennie and Jenn.
Let's hope that JonJon will come to some sort of decision soon.
Thanks MM for another great chapter.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher