Story so far:

Devon Chasen is a young college boy who’s found himself alongside several thousand fellow students, mostly male, aboard a massive spaceship flying toward a new home.

Devon is gay, he thinks, and seeing two boys swapping hand-jobs one afternoon gets him thinking. Aroused by the sexual play he witnesses, Devon starts to wonder about sex with other boys. This compels him to prowl around the emergency tunnels on the ship, where he catches a few other boys in masturbatory pursuits. He has to wonder about his friends, and what their sexual desires might be.

First there are his best friends from college, the athletic Reid and nerdy Patrick. Another shy boy from Devon’s flat, Charlie, is cute, but quiet and sullen. One of Devon’s co-workers in the cafeteria, Zane, is unabashedly bisexual, and then there’s Conner, Devon’s med-school friend. Not to mention Devon’s twenty-something other flatmates and the 4,500 other guys on the ship.

Space Ship Boys

Chapter 3 – The Sneak

“This will be good,” a scientist once said, looking over his schematics and calculations and plans. “This will be very, very good for mankind. And for me.”

Not much later, a politician agreed with the scientist. “This will be good,” he said, having listened to the scientist’s theories and ideas. He did not understand much about science, but he did understand about progress and money and having your name on little plaques under your photo in important buildings. “This will be good for America,” he said. “And for me.”

“This will be great!” said a businessman, looking over the papers presented to him by the scientist and the politician. He did not see knowledge or votes in them, but he did see money, and as such knew immediately that what lay in front of him was a very good thing. “This will be great for you, Mr. Scientist, and for you, Mr. Politician. This will be great for America, and for mankind.” He did not bother to point out how very good it would be for him.

The price tag was high. “This does not sound very good to me,” said a voter, looking at a number with far too many zeros trailing it. His wallet felt empty already. “This sounds expensive.”

“But think of the advancements we’ll make!” proclaimed the scientist. “Think of what we’ll learn, and what we’ll be able to do with it.”

“And think of the country!” the politician exclaimed. “Think about America, and how strong we’ll be! Think of how we will once again be a beacon on a hill for all the world to marvel at!”

“Think of the money,” said the businessman quietly, not bothering to point out that a great deal of it – in fact most of it – would be funneled his way.

It was this third argument that swayed the voter, and MALLSNERD became a reality – a gigantic orbiting space platform designed to create, contain and harvest a man-made singularity.

It was to be our greatest achievement – something that would make all mankind’s wars and strife and struggles worth it. We had emerged from the swamps and crawled onto land for this one simple, glorious purpose. MALLSNERD would teach us, feed us, and power us for eons to come. We would finally emerge as a fully Type I civilization on the Kardashev scale, and we’d be well on our way to Type II – we would be like gods, masters of our dominion.

Then things went wrong – the singularity became unstable.

“Whoops,” said the scientist. “I don’t know what happened. Everything should have been fine. I think the politician’s cost-cutting caused this.”

“Whoops,” said the politician. “This isn’t my fault. The scientist’s math must have been off.”

“Don’t look at me,” said the businessman. “My company went bankrupt because of this, and now all I have is my pride, my sense of self-importance and the sadness I feel for what has happened.” He didn’t bother to mention the forty-five billion dollars in his bank account, the pay he’d received for ten years’ work on the project. This helped him retain his pride and sense of self-importance, and it also helped him deal with his sadness, so he felt not-at-all bad about keeping it.

Mankind turned to other scientists, politicians and businessmen and asked what they should do. It seemed simple enough: “Space is big,” they said, “Let’s send our creation out there, and never think upon these things again.”

So it was that MALLSNERD was shot into space. Or it would have been, had it not become even more unstable at an unfortunate moment, pulling itself into the sun. “Well, that’s not good,” most everyone on the planet said at once, some more frantically than others.

Days passed, and then months. And then years.

It seemed that mankind had lucked out. Other scientists and politicians drew up complex theories – and it became common knowledge that the singularity had popped out of existence once it entered the massive star, twisted and squashed and destroyed by the heat and gravity.

That’s about the time Earth had a very hard summer.

The sun is large, and hard to study. Trillions were spent doing so when MALLSNERD fell into the star, and in the end it was an odd Indian summer that revealed the singularity still existed, and that it was changing our star, the heart of our solar system.

There was a scramble. Well, there was a war first, of course – all good stories start with a war or two. Then there was a scramble, and DENON was born. Mankind did not know when the end would come – whether it would take decades or millennia, but they knew that it would come eventually – just as surely as death comes to each individual human being.

Planets were located – hundreds. A handful seemed potentially viable for human habitation. Probes were sent, but because it would take centuries for them to reach their destinations and relay information back to the Earth, they were considered merely a part of the overall plan.

Ships were built – massive, beautiful ships that could carry mankind forward to the stars. America went bankrupt building these ships, its scientists, politicians, businessmen and voters all being rather poor at money management, and so it was that one wintery morning the President signed a deal to sell the State of California to Great Britain. America mourned the loss of their largest coastal state. Texas and Alaska insisted they were also coastal; America told them to shut the fuck up. California celebrated, never having liked America all that much anyway; and then they passed around the fish tacos and sticky toffee pudding, preferred cuisine of the day.

And then mankind waited. And waited.

One March day the boards lit up, both on the lunar bases and the orbiting telescopes. What we hoped would take a million years to culminate in solar destruction was happening today. Well, shit.

In Wyoming, a boy sat in class wondering why he always had an erection during calculus. Calculus was sexy, but not that sexy. A day later, this same boy was enclosed in a capsule aboard a spaceship destined for another world, still wondering about his erectile parts, particularly his nipples, which were really quite stiff against the fabric of his t-shirt.

Shortly after that, the sun had changed – violently and permanently. It shed unimaginable portions of its mass, shooting it into space and frying everything in its path. It did not die, per se, at least not on that day. For the sun, it was like suddenly realizing it was far too warm a spring day to be wearing a wool jacket, and tossing it off in a dramatic fashion while crossing the street. For the Earth and those on it, it was like being bathed in fire, and fear, and death. Except in Las Vegas where, for a brief moment before the end of all things, the weather was slightly better than it usually was that time of year.

* * *

Waking up in sheer terror wasn’t something new to me. Since leaving Earth, it happened every once in a while. I’d shake myself violently from sleep, feeling a bit like I was falling. I was usually soaked when I woke up, and I’d always check to make sure it was just sweat. It always was.

On this particular morning, following this particular nightmare, I first think I’m running a fever. I feel hot. Then I notice everything feels hot – my clothes, the bed, the air around me. Ugh. The room is like a sauna. Swinging myself down off my bunk, I see that Reid is the only other person in the room. He seems to be just waking up, also looking hot and uncomfortable.

I wonder what the deal is with the heat, and take a look at my wristcom to see if there are any notices. I find the appropriate folder, locate the appropriate message and discover we’re on lockdown. Blech.

EV5997 is an old ship. It’s a good ship, but it’s old. Since the day we launched, the crew had been working around the clock to ensure she was fully operational. In fact, they’d been so busy we rarely saw the permanent crew – the two-hundred men and women of the Space Force, mostly reservists, who’d been assigned to the ship back when it was just a big lump in the ground.

We were told that the ship was in good order, for the most part. This didn’t mean there weren’t occasional minor malfunctions, and when these occurred we’d often find ourselves in lockdown. In most cases it wasn’t a true emergency – we weren’t literally locked in our rooms, but wandering out during a lockdown was a good way to get into trouble. There was a brig, some of us had learned.

“Lockdown again?” Reid asks when he stumbles out of bed, groggy and sounding a little cranky. He’d worked a late shift, I’d been up at one and he’d still been out.

I nod. “Yup. There’s something going on with the environmental controls. They say a couple of hours to fix it.”


The more time we spend on the ship, the more things settle into a daily routine and seem “normal.” At ninety-six days in space, the newness of the experience was wearing off, for better and for worse. On the one hand, crops were coming in and “real” food was more available. On the other, the mundane routine of living on a ship was what we could look forward to for the next eighteen years. Lockdowns and heater malfunctions promised to be an ongoing part of this. Reid and I agree that the room is stifling, and decide to see if the living room is more pleasant. I get dressed, but Reid sticks with his favorite morning outfit – a blue cotton t-shirt and his tighty-whities.

“Oh my god,” Reid complains when we open the door. We’re greeted with a blast of humid, hot air; it’s at least thirty degrees Celsius. “What the frell?”

Eight or nine guys are sitting around the living room, looking equally annoyed at the heat. Patrick is one of them. “They’re having trouble with the temperature controls. I mean, obviously. Until they fix them, looks likes it’s going to be a little warm.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” I reply, right before I make a beeline for my room to swap my jeans out for a pair of cargo shorts.

While I change, noticing that it feels warmer now than when I woke up, my roommate Nick comes in. He’s wearing a towel and dripping with water, clearly having just showered. “Ugh,” he says in disgust, “Don’t try showering to cool off. The water is even hotter than the air. I thought it would help, but I feel disgusting.”

I laugh, and tell Nick that I’d expect someone from Florida to be used to the hot, nasty weather. “Yeah. Well. I don’t miss that part of it,” he says.

Back in the living room, more of our roommates have assembled to collectively gripe about the conditions. The thermometer on my wristcom reports that it’s now thirty-four degrees.

The rest of us watch as two of our flatmates, Diego Redmand and AJ Mendell, argue about Diego’s chances with one of the girls housed in Topside. With only a couple hundred females on board, most heterosexual men would probably eventually question how to best go about pairing off with one of them. Diego had probably been the first to do so.

“Dude, you soooooo have no shot with her,” AJ laughs. This was a rare thing, as AJ was a solemn, brooding boy who largely kept to himself. He didn’t seem to have any close friends, although he was generally friendly.

“I do. I swear to god I do,” Diego insists. “She was totally checking me out in the library. She’s on your shift, right?”

“Yeah, she is,” AJ confirms.

Diego pleads, and not in a very dignified manner. “Then you have to introduce me – that’s all I ask. Just tell her I exist, please? Please?”

AJ finally consents. “Yeah, yeah, ok, I’ll introduce you. But you have to promise – no, you have to swear not to embarrass me.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Diego leaps to his feet and embraces AJ, who looks rather perturbed by Diego’s obsequious behavior.

One of our flatmates, Chris, walks into the room wearing nothing but a pair of white boxers. I try not to stare – Chris has a very military demeanor to him, although he wasn’t in the armed forces as far as I knew, but he seemed like the type that might have been a marine in another life. As such, he was serious and marvelously built, and it was my inclination to stare. But I assumed he might not appreciate someone with a y-chromosome starting, so I resisted being too obvious about it.

Chris was always to be found with his best friend, Peter, a considerably more laid back boy whose frequent smiles and joking nature helped soften Chris’s terse manner. Peter held up what appeared to be a blue data chip. “Anyone want to watch a movie?” he asked. “I mean, might as well, as long as we’re stuck in here all day.”

A brief discussion followed. It was generally agreed that sitting around hot and sweaty watching a movie was better than sitting around hot and sweaty doing nothing.

“What’d ya bring?” Reid asks, nodding at Peter’s data chip, which we assume contains the movies he’d been suggesting.

“I have a bunch,” he says, “I got Bring It on Home one through eight, The Grid, The Screaper, and a bunch of others.”

He lists his other offerings. They’re mostly sports movies, and horror, which figures. Patrick suggests that he can go get something else for us to choose from, which I take to mean he’s not happy with the selection. His offer is rejected, however, when Chris votes in favor of Bring It on Home. Chris’s roommate Charlie comes out of his bedroom and stands in the doorway for a minute before retreating back into his room. He still looks a little cranky, like he had when I’d gone to dinner with him, and not particularly prone to hanging out in the crowded living room.

Soon thereafter, the room is darkened, the vid fired up, and we’re treated to a trite but entertaining opening monologue in a low, grumbly voice that goes on about honor, tradition, teamwork and things like that. This draws some of our other flat mates out of their rooms, and soon we’re watching the movie in relative silence.

What follows in our living room is one of the slower and more mundane stripteases of all time. Throughout the movie, and the two sequels that follow, the temperature continues to rise. In response, my flatmates and I try to bring about a little relief by following Chris’s example and stripping down to the “bare essentials”.

About the time the ragtag band of general screw-ups is being assembled in the first Bring It on Home, Diego pulls off his yellow tee, revealing a defined chest of olive skin, and a wide fuzzy treasure trail leading into his white athletic shorts.

When the same team, now a well-oiled machine of sportsmanship and camaraderie, wins the big game, Cory Cantrell, a guy in E-Room strips down to a pair of black trunks. I can’t help but notice that the dark pink circles of skin around his nipples are particularly large – almost oddly so.

At the end of the first movie (they win!), Cory’s roommate Milo follows suit, stripping to a pair of white briefs. AJ disappears for a couple of minutes, and when he returns he’s wearing a pair of leopard print boxers and a white tank – the kind with arm loops so elongated they hang open down past the waistband of his shorts. I can’t help but think this may be sexier than if he’d been in only boxers – the way the fabric falls away from his body when he leans forward so I can see his long, smooth torso through the armholes.

I check each of these boys out, and the others in the room, thinking about their bodies, and about what they might look like naked. I also think about how the thermometer now reads thirty-eight degrees.

We work our way through the second movie, each of us becoming crankier the longer we have to put up with the heat.

The third film, Bring It on Home 3: Desert Rats, turns out to be an unfortunate selection – most of the movie takes place in the Mojave Desert on the border between Great Britain and the United States (in the end, the US team wins, in a diplomatic gesture by the film industry, which was largely located on English soil when the film was made). Several of the guys gripe about the montages of working out in the desert, which in some cases looks less hot than our room.

Early evening brings no relief, the thermometer now reading forty – that unthinkable place on the Celsius scale where things become decidedly intolerable. We discuss what the next movie should be. Patrick suggests a drama about a New York clan of dysfunctional eccentrics; it is quickly voted down to his dismay. The guys vote on Bridge 27, a far less artsy film about an ill-fated span that has considerably more explosions.

About halfway through the movie our television changes unexpectedly over to the channel where ship-wide announcements are made. A rather violent gun battle on Bridge 27 is replaced with the face of Captain James Bianchi – the commanding officer of EV5997. The guys in the room perk up, faces hopeful that the lockdown has ended.

“Good afternoon,” the authoritative voice of our fifty-something captain begins, “As you have no doubt noticed, a malfunction in the ship’s atmospheric systems have caused the temperature to rise to uncomfortable levels.” Chris snorts audibly at this, running his fingers down his sweat-soaked torso. He flicks his wet hand at Peter, the sweat flying through the air toward his friend. Peter squeals in protest and punches Chris in the arm, which results in some good-natured wrestling between the two. On the TV, the captain looks hot and flustered in his uniform; I assume it’s no more pleasant in the command center.

“I’m happy to report that the problem has been isolated and repairs are underway, although we do not expect to see a return to normal performance until after midnight.” Groans all around.

“However, the unusually high temperatures are the only issue. The atmosphere is at optimum levels, and carbon dioxide scrubbing is working perfectly. Also, I should point out that the livestock and plant life onboard is in no way threatened.” I thought about the farm I had visited the day before – the stalks of wheat just starting to thrive, and I was glad to hear that the plants on board would be unaffected. The faster we get the farms up and running, the faster we can stop eating the terrible rations. “Although I have been warned not to visit the llama farm, as they are particularly cranky,” the captain adds.

Captain Bianchi goes on to explain a little more about the problem; just as we’re all tuning him out, he makes his biggest announcement of the evening. “As I’m sure you’re all aware, June 13th, which is this Sunday, will mark our 100th day in space. Heat waves aside, I think you will all agree that our launch and voyage to deep space has largely been successful, and an important first step in the preservation of our species. You’ve all risen to the challenge of the day, and I believe a celebration is in order.” At this, everyone perks up for a second time.

“This Sunday night, please join the crew in the Rear Observation Deck for the first of what I hope to be many ship-wide celebrations. Details will be posted tomorrow.” We all sit in silence for a second. “And I should mention that I’m bringing the booze.”

As with any speech directed at college kids, ending on an announcement of free alcohol has the desired effect, and cheers erupt from Chris, Milo and Peter, with more muted exclamations emanating throughout our flat. I even hear a faint roar from the subsection next to us, where I imagine twenty-five other sweaty guys watching the same announcement. Once Captain Bianchi signs off, we chat excitedly amongst ourselves; on screen, Bridge 27 is destroyed in a tragic but beautiful explosion.

The temperature peaks at forty-two degrees, and when the final credits to Bridge 27 roll, there’s an unspoken agreement the movie marathon is over. Other than the occasional bathroom break, I’ve been sitting in this same spot for over eight hours, and my body is sore. I feel cloudy-headed, achy and nauseous. I peel myself from the couch (literally peel, which is nasty). Peter turns up the lights and everyone squints in the sudden brightness. As my eyes adjust, I notice that we all look terrible – sweaty and red-eyed and tired.

“I can’t believe it’s still this hot,” Chris complains, looking both literally and figuratively hot in his white underwear, sweat soaking them through so that his assets are all the more visible.

“No shit,” Nick agrees, now wearing only a pair of green boxers.

We all add our opinions, the general consensus being that it’s unnatural for night to fall and the temperature to still be this high. Ultimately, tired and cranky from the heat, the group starts to break up, my flatmates heading to their individual bedrooms. Reid and I follow Nick and Jacob to ours.

“Wow, it feels better in here,” Jacob says when he enters our room. He’s right; it is considerably cooler than the living room.

Patrick is reading a book on his tablet computer, lying on his bunk at the base of the rear wall of the room. He looks up when we enter and says, “I managed to get some airflow from the emergency access tunnel.” He points to the open hatch above the two bunks on the rear wall of the room and we see that he’s rigged a makeshift fan. “It’s down to thirty-four in here, which is still pretty bad, but a little better.”

“A little better?” Nick exclaims, grabbing Jacob’s shoulders from behind and shaking him slightly. “It’s like hella better. My junk has been broiling all day!” He tugs the waistband of his green boxers away from his body and fans his crotch with his other hand, as if cooling his testicles.

I’d shucked my shirt during the first movie, but left on my shorts. I notice now the shorts have been rubbing against my legs in an uncomfortable way, so I unbutton the waist and slide them down over my knees. My bright blue briefs are soaked with sweat (Yuck!) and the cooler air of the room feels good against this dampness.

Reid pulls his wet t-shirt off over his head so that I can see that the pair of tight white briefs he’s wearing are also soaked through. But in his case, the sweat has made the white material almost transparent. I try not to stare, but you can see his tan skin through the material, and I can’t help but occasionally glance at the outline of his round butt or the place where his brown pubic hair shows dark through the thin material. I’d never seen Reid completely naked, something I consider now.

Jacob similarly strips, revealing a pair of white cotton trunks that are too thick to have become transparent. Patrick, for his part, remains dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and socks. Maybe he has some scientific reason for that – he doesn’t seem to be sweating at all.

We discuss what to do next, in the bored, sometimes hostile tone guys our age use when cranky. It’s too early to sleep, and too hot to think. We’re bored, restless, and annoyed.

“Cards?” Reid asks, pulling a deck from his trunk. We’re all too tired and cranky to argue; Nick and I grumble consent, where Patrick says he’ll stick to his book. Jacob is in. Nick pulls a collapsible table and two chairs from the storage space above the bench where I’m seated and sets them up so the four of us can play.

Poker is a regular activity in our room, and despite the heat, we soon find ourselves in our usual raucous card-playing manner. Reid gets a straight, which somehow gets him talking about girls, and two hands later Nick gets three jacks, which results in lewd, childish innuendo from Jacob. We all laugh and continue playing as evening becomes night, forgetting for a while that we’re five uncomfortably sweaty guys floating though space at a bazillion miles per hour.

It would be nice for this scene to develop into something else, something sexual. But that’s not how things go. Sure, we’re all soaking wet, nearly naked and bored, and I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in Sean and Dog’s bunk right now. But I wasn’t brave enough to start anything. Besides, Reid and Patrick are my best friends, and I don’t think lack of sex was a good enough reason to proposition them – yet. Not that they weren’t hot, again both literally and figuratively.

But I did take advantage of the poker game to check them out. Ok, ok, I know – bad idea. But this was a rare opportunity. We usually wore clothes during poker, and sitting around in our underwear gave me an excuse to get a good look at each guy.

Reid is probably the hottest guy in the room. He’s your All-American athletic boy, complete with medium brown hair, huge brown expressive eyes, a sly smile and killer muscular torso. He’d been well-developed at school, but since coming on board he’s taken to spending Tuesday and Thursday nights in the gym down in Bottomside. And also Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights. And some Saturday afternoons. It’s paid off – he’s growing bigger every day, his chest and shoulders becoming more muscular and his six-pack growing in definition. It was around the time that a very distinct V-shape – the muscles of his lower abdominals – started showing, pointing downward into his shorts, that I asked to join him in the gym. He gladly accepted, and now patiently worked with me through his routines.

Patrick is completely different, and I wonder how these two came to hang out together on the kindergarten playground (where Patrick said they’d met). Patrick has a medium frame with a compact, muscular body. He’s not what I’d call buff, but he does well enough in the gym. He’s darker than the rest of us, though; dark skin, black hair, and piercing dark eyes with bushy black eyebrows, all of which I assume he gets from the Dellano side of his family. He’s also fuzzier than anyone else in the room, with thick dark hair on his legs and a medium spray of black hair across the chest. I envy his skin, which I assume never gets sunburned. He has an intense and intelligent look, but you can also tell instantly he’s a nice guy.

Jacob Hirsch, our fourth roomie, was also placed at JDU younger than most, but not as young as me. He’d celebrated a birthday shortly after we launched, and although eighteen he still looks rather boyish. He has some definition, but it seems like his body is emerging from the awkwardness of adolescence in uneven spurts, his arms and chest taking on the muscles of adulthood ahead of the rest of him so that he looks slightly odd and uncomfortable in his own skin, but cute.

If I had to pick from the guys in the room, though, I might have to choose our fifth roommate Nick – even over Reid.

Nick didn’t have anywhere near the physique of my best friend, but he made up for it with a beautiful face. I like people’s eyes, and Nick has amazing hazel eyes that are expressive and soft. He also has the best hair in the room (next to mine, of course!), which he keeps a medium length so it just begins to flop into his eyes. It’s always shiny and perfect looking – it’s almost the same darkish brown that my natural color is, but if my hair had the texture of Nick’s I don’t think I’d need to dye it.

I’m envious of Nick’s body as well. He has good muscle tone, but one of the things I notice tonight is that his body has very rounded edges – round shoulders, a round nose, even his long fingers seem slightly rounded. It gives him a soft quality that makes him seem ideal to snuggle with. Nick’s physique is not built like Chris or Reid, but he’s definitely not fat. I wouldn’t call him thin either. He’s tall and sturdy, with a trail of light brown hair that runs up his stomach in a sparse track. Nick almost always wears boxers, loose ones, but one morning I was dozing in my bunk when he got up and I happened to catch a glimpse of what looked to be a very impressive tent in his shorts. I’d thought about that tent ever since, but not as often as I thought about how nice a guy Nick truly was.

Speaking of boners, I start to get a little excited thinking about my roommates. I cross my legs to prevent further blood flow to my groin. It works, and no one seems to notice the slightly enlarged penis in my briefs.

The game goes on into the night. Around two a.m. there’s a perceptible dimming of the lights and we can hear the fans throughout the subsection engage. Cool air starts pouring into the room as an audible cheer rises from throughout the section. “Oh thank god!” Nick exclaims, pounding his head lightly against the table and inadvertently showing everyone his hand. He should have folded – it sucks.

“I don’t know, maybe we should keep the thermostat at thirty-five from now on, it was a fun day,” Jacob quips.

Reid looks at him dubiously. “Yeah,” I reply, “except I spent the whole day almost throwing up, and I drank like ten liters of water but only pissed twice.” Patrick chuckles from behind his book.

Nick points something out. “I think most of the water you drank ended up in the couch, along with several liters from everyone else. It sounds like a waterbed when you sit on it now.” I offer a guilty half smile in agreement.

Reid breaks out laughing. “Dude, that’s so gross!” he exclaims, running his hand over his chest the way shirtless boys sometimes do.

“But probably true,” I reply. “And it’s not like you haven’t been sweating profusely from your butt cheeks all afternoon.”

Our joking around isn’t that funny, but the heat exhaustion and newly cooled air makes it seem so. Nick and I begin giggling, and we spend the next ten minutes trying to find new and more offensive ways to express how much we’ve been sweating today. The poker game has unceremoniously ended.

Our room smells like hot boy, and sweat, and ass, and we mutually agree that we all need showers. The others in the flat have reached the same conclusion, and a makeshift schedule is hastily agreed upon, each of the twenty-four boys taking a quick turn amongst the four-jet communal shower and three private stalls.

I go last, partially because I’m a nice guy and partially because it gives me an excuse to sit in the living room watching underwear-clad boys rotate into the bathroom and towel-clad guys come out. Chris opts to wear nothing out at all, his drying boy parts on display for the world to see. His dick is thick, and hangs from his body with a certain brusque seriousness. It suits him. “Nice,” I think to myself, working very hard to not get caught looking.

I shower and return to my room, feeling cooler, happier and – thankfully – cleaner. I find my roomies bunked out, all of them either asleep or very soon to be. Tossing on some clothes (not the sweaty ones, those will most likely be burned later), I’m surprised to discover that I’m not tired. It’s late, but the heat has thrown my body clock off.

I go back to the living room to see if anyone else is still up. It’s empty, but the door to B-Room is open and the lights are on, so I head there. The guys who roomed here – Beck, Charlie, Chris, Peter and Bronwyn (yeah, Bronwyn, don’t ask) definitely stay up later than my roommates and me. I mean, we’re usually up until midnight or one, but these guys seem like they never sleep. The rule in the flat is that an open door is an open invitation, so I head right in.

Beck seems to be the only one at home, and as usual he’s glued to his console listening to his music. Each room has a partitioned desk along the rear wall under the rear bunks, creating three work areas with computer stations. We switch around in our room and no one “owns” a particular console, but Beck has definitely staked a claim to “his” computer. He’s painted it black and put stickers all over it – wild graffiti designs in swirling blues and purples. He nods at me as I enter the room. “Hey, what’s up?” he asks, not bothering to take off his headphones. At least he has the courtesy to use those late at night.

“Couldn’t sleep,” I respond.

He looks at me curiously, as if about to ask what “sleep” was or why I’d want to try it, then he says, “Ah. Hey, I found some killer new mips from one of the guys up in Area Nineteen. All stuff from the last half of the twenty-first century. Some of it’s pretty geeky, but it’s good for the collection.”

Mips were the digitized media files we used. The ship had a lot in its databank, but it wasn’t a comprehensive collection. Since we launched, Beck has made it his personal mission in life to gather every song and movie on board and compile them into a giant library available to everyone. I think he has something like a million files right now, but he’s always eager for more. Most of his free time is spent listening, labeling and sorting.

Beck navigates through some directories on his screen and loads a file. He adjusts the volume for my benefit. A seductive, sultry woman’s voice fills the room – the music is both electronica and bossa nova, both groovy and sensual. I smile at him and say I like it – I don’t know what he means by “geeky,” this is actually a pretty sexy song.

“Flipping christ! Does it never end?” a voice exclaims from the doorway. We turn to see Chris and Peter enter. They seem visibly drunk. Beck tells me they started drinking after the movies, and then continued after the showers.

“D Man!” Peter exclaims, slapping me on the back. When Chris and Peter get rowdy they start calling people by annoying monikers, mine being “D-man.” They’re ok guys, just your typical boys. Chris is your muscular silent type, Peter the goof-off.

Peter trips on a shirt carelessly discarded on the floor and collapses onto the nearest bunk laughing; Chris even cracks a smile, obviously trying to remain standing without falling over. They smell strongly of alcohol.

“Hey, where’d you guys get booze?” I ask. There was some on the ship, but not a lot.

“Something I put away for a special occasion. Sorry we didn’t save any for you, D-man.” Peter slurs from the bunk.

“D-man!” Chris mimics Peter from behind me annoyingly. And then he explains, “It was Charlie’s. He scored two almost full bottles of whiskey and one tequila. We’ve been over in six drinking it.”

Whiskey and tequila? I didn’t envy the hangover that was going to cause. Six was the flat next door. Chris’s gang spent a lot of time over there. Charlie usually didn’t, but he always seemed to have easy access to alcohol somehow, which explained why he was invited to hang tonight. Usually they ignored him – he was younger, and a quiet guy. The fact that he’d been drinking with Chris but hadn’t come back with them worried me.

Charlie was seventeen – one of the younger students at JDU, like myself, and he was certainly capable of taking care of himself. However, he wasn’t a mature seventeen, and he’d seemed off lately. Drinking a lot, really quiet – that sort of thing. Maybe this, and the bond I felt with him being one of the younger guys on the ship, fueled a growing concern for his well-being.

“Where’s Charlie?” I ask.

“Don’t know,” Chris mumbles. “He had like eight shots with us, then wandered off.”

Peter adds, “You know how C-man is (his nicknaming system apparently seeks brilliance in its simplicity), he never stays to the end of the party.”

“I think he went up to twenty-four. He hangs there a lot,” Chris says. Twenty-four was the section above ours, and was unoccupied. The ship was less than half full, but we couldn’t spread out into every room until we had the resources. For now, a lot of areas are vacant.

“He really shouldn’t be wandering around drunk,” Beck says, concerned for his roommate. He suggests that since Chris and Peter got him drunk, they should go drag him home. An argument ensues in which they refuse, saying he’s an adult and that the hallways aren’t dangerous. Chris gets surly and more argumentative – I have the feeling he could be a mean drunk.

Ultimately, Beck and I decide to be the responsible ones. We figure one should stay with the drunken boys and one should go find Charlie to make sure he’s ok. I get the feeling Beck doesn’t really want to leave the flat, so I volunteer and he graciously accepts his assignment, which is pretty much doing the same thing he’s doing now with the added responsibility of making sure Chris and Peter stay put until they’re sober.

I take off toward twenty-four to go look for stupid drunk Charlie. I was a little annoyed at Chris’s irresponsibility. The ship can be a dangerous place if you’re not careful, and even though Charlie was technically almost an adult, he needed someone to watch out for him. He’d had it rough. I mean, he was pretty sure some of his family was dead, and he was separated from any who had made it aboard other ships. It was hard on him; he was really close to them.

Although the dorms of Area Twenty-Four are directly above us, it takes me fifteen minutes to walk there. The ship is huge, and some of the passageways are really confusing. You often travel in what seems like a giant circle to access to other areas.

I make a wrong turn or two along the way, and when I finally navigate the corridors successfully I enter the floor to find it deserted, as expected. The air is cold, the environmental systems now working at full capacity. The floor is an exact duplicate of ours, so there are seventeen subsections, or “flats,” in total. So, that makes eighty-five bedrooms, thirty-four living rooms and seventeen bathrooms to search, assuming he’s on this floor at all. Dammit, why the hell did I volunteer for this?

I have to start looking somewhere, and it strikes me that if Charlie came here drunk he might get confused and think he was on twenty-three, in which case he might wander to the counterpart to his bedroom on this floor. I look for the signs pointing me to 24E5, the flat directly above ours.

I locate it and enter. It’s a bit surreal, seeing the layout that is identical to ours, but unused. I imagine this is how it appeared months ago, before we came to live on the ship. Or perhaps this is my future, a world in which everyone has disappeared and left me alone on the giant vessel. I shiver – the air is quite cool and my thoughts aren’t pleasant. The room feels empty and lonely; teenagers have clearly never occupied it, the floor free of the debris and detritus of youthful leavings.

24E5C, the bedroom directly above mine, is empty and metallic smelling. I think about Reid, Patrick, Nick and Jacob sleeping soundly in their bunks directly under me. It’s comforting somehow.

I go back into the empty living area and cross the room, heading for the door to B-Room, the counterpart to Charlie’s bedroom. Entering the room, I’m pleased to find that I’ve located Charlie – and on my second try, no less. Relinquished from a night of checking room after room, I breathe a sigh of relief.

The room is dark, but the light from the hall is enough for me to make out a sleeping Charlie. If he drank as much as Chris said he had, he’s probably just sleeping it off. The room feels a lot larger than our bedrooms upstairs, just the one bunk pulled out from the wall and the space empty of trunks, clothes and other boys. It’s also much cooler in here.

I adjust the light in the room so that it’s dim enough to see better, but not bright. I guess I’ll have to wake Charlie up and drag him downstairs. I don’t want him getting sick from sleeping in the cold air with no blankets. That’s when I notice that his appearance is somewhat…shocking.

Charlie is passed out on his back, shirtless, with one arm draped over his stomach and the other hanging off the side of the bed, an empty tequila bottle lying on the floor below. He’s bare-chested, and it looks like he had been undressing when he presumably passed out, just about the time he got his pants off. But what really grabs my attention is that he’s wearing dark brown flannel boxers, only they aren’t quite “accomplishing their mission.” The fly has popped open, and Charlie’s flaccid dick is sticking out, lying at an upward angle against the brown fabric of his shorts.

I look at the brown tube sticking out of his pants, and then look away embarrassed. This is a compromising position to find a guy in. Something about the unintentional exposure makes the scene seem both tender and pathetic – like he’s a child who can’t dress himself. And that may sum up what I think about Charlie. He may be a little older than me, but he sure lacks in maturity and self-sufficiency.

“Charlie,” I whisper to him, hoping he’ll easily wake from his drunken sleep so I can accompany him back upstairs. He doesn’t budge. “Charlie,” I say a little louder, coming next to him and nudging his shoulder. I accidentally kick the empty liquor bottle, sending it skittering across the metallic floor of the bedroom. I shake him vigorously so that his whole body sways back and forth on the mattress, his dick flopping from side to side in his shorts.

He doesn’t move, and I suddenly realize I have my hand on a mostly-naked dude. I’m instantly hyper-aware of the softness of the skin under my hand and the heat his body is putting off. Man, his skin is really warm. Must be the alcohol burning in his blood.

I sit on the floor next to the bed so that my face is on the same level as his. I give his cheek a little slap to see if he’ll react, but he doesn’t. He’s breathing regularly, his chest rising and falling in slow, deep movements, so I figure he just got too drunk and passed out.

I’ve always liked Charlie, but now I notice he’s a pretty cute kid, even more so when he’s sleeping. His naked brown torso is completely at ease, and his face has relaxed into a small smile that curls along his upper lip. I notice that he’s built a little like me – slender and slightly lanky, but putting on the muscle that will carry him into adulthood. I think he’s gained some weight since the early days on the ship – probably a result of the manual labor, or perhaps like me he’d found a gym buddy.

And here’s the dilemma I find myself in. I’ve come across a totally drunk passed-out guy, and I have the responsibility of somehow getting him downstairs. First, though, I figure this is my chance to test something out. What would touching a guy be like? Not just on the shoulder, but elsewhere on his body. I know it’s probably wrong, but having him here like this is a huge temptation. Besides, I reason, I’m doing him a favor, right? Coming to look for him – he owes me, right? Right?

I place my palm firmly on his chest, and as I suspected, touching a guy can be nice. He’s so soft and peaceful; his skin feels totally smooth and totally awesome against my fingers. And then there’s his dick. Somehow he seems to have…um…popped out of his boxers. His penis is lying flaccid and exposed, adding a slight naughtiness to the otherwise angelic visage of the sleeping boy. I debate whether or not I should touch it.

Having come this far, I can’t stop myself. I reach over and press against it with my forefinger, causing it to roll lazily to the side. Wow, it’s even warmer than the rest of his body, and the skin is impossibly soft. Poking the flaccid brown tube with my finger a second time, it slides further out of Charlie’s fly so I can see the full length of it.

When I first spied on Sean and Dog, I was blown away that dicks vary so much in shape. Charlie’s penis is a lot like mine when limp, although the skin is a slightly deeper brown, and I wonder if there’s a connection between body frame and penis shape. He and I are a similar size physically, so maybe that makes our dicks somewhat the same. My extended finger pauses just below the place where the shaft ends and Charlie’s helmet emerges. I exert a slight pressure on the loose skin here, feeling its softness and examining Charlie’s tip. It’s pinker than the rest of his penis, and I hold my breath as I run my finger along this most sensitive part, stroking the smooth skin gently.

Charlie sighs in his sleep and shifts his weight. I pull my hand back as if I’ve brushed it against an electric fence. I think I’ve roused him accidentally, but he goes still again and I assume he’s still passed out. This is a point in the evening where I might have called it a night, and if I had maybe my life would have taken a different course.

But I didn’t stop, partially because of the fire that was building deep in my loins. Charlie was adorable, splayed out like this, and I was taking advantage of him. Not just out of curiosity, but also a building lust. It was the perfect situation for me – one I’d never dreamed would happen. Spying from the emergency tunnels had supplied nothing more than a few titillating viewing opportunities, ones that were appreciated but not completely satisfying. But here in this room – here was this beautiful boy, unconscious, tangible, real, and putty in my hands.

Well, not putty exactly. The stimulation to Charlie’s penis was resulting in a noticeable reaction. It was throbbing slightly, and while only slightly larger than a moment ago, it was clearly growing slowly, increasing size in small throbs that occur in time with Charlie’s beating heart. Noticing this, I knew I wanted this to be sexual.

I pause to wonder about Charlie’s choice of underwear. I think back to Reid’s white briefs and Nick’s sexy boxers. Charlie’s underwear is an odd choice for a spaceship, but I guess he wasn’t planning on being in space when he got them. They’re made of a flannel material, but a really thin flannel – not thick and fuzzy like a winter shirt. The material is dark brown with a grid work pattern of slightly lighter tan lines. I run two of my fingers under the waistband, feeling the smooth, muscular skin of Charlie’s abdomen along the back of my fingers. I wouldn’t have expected it, but the boxers are sexy.

I want to explore this, so I reach down and pull his shorts up so that Charlie’s thickening penis slips back into the fly. I can still see the outline of his dick pressing into the fabric, and begin stroking the head through the material, the same way I’d been doing skin-on-skin a moment ago.

The flannel is soft against my fingertips, allowing me to slide them easily up and down Charlie’s penis. He’s now tenting his shorts considerably, clearly mostly erect; I wrap my hand around the shaft and felt the weight and thickness of it through the material. Funny, this almost seems more intimate than touching his naked penis.

Although constrained, I can feel that Charlie’s boner is pointing upwards and out from his body at a 45-degree angle. He seems probably about 7 inches, slightly longer than me, and maybe a little thinner. There’s enough material to allow his erection quite a bit of space, and I experiment with slowly sliding the fabric back and forth against his cockhead. Charlie stirs, making a sound that is almost a groan, but the whole situation has me so horned up I don’t stop.

Yeah, ok, I can admit it – I’m horny now, and boned. I continue rubbing Charlie with my right hand and decide to relieve the pressure in my pants with my left, unbuttoning my fly and pulling my already rock-hard erection through the opening in my underwear and shorts.

Oh my god, touching my dick for the first time tonight seems to be a culmination of all the crazy events of the day – the half naked roommates, the nudie poker game, and now this. As I pull my erection out of my shorts, the sensation is beyond incredible. My eyes roll back in my skull and I grab Charlie a little harder, stroking the length of his fabric-encased penis. His body responds with a visible shudder, a dark spot appearing on the material above his tip; he’s started leaking precum, which I take to mean his cock is turned on enough to want to be out in the open.

I could try to push Charlie’s underwear down his hips, but the fly in the boxers is quite large, so I decide to pull his boner through this opening. I reach in, delighting in the moist warmth of the skin I find there. I pull Charlie’s equipment out into the open, taking a moment to free both his cock and balls from the confines of his boxers. Once I’m done, I take in the full view of the sleeping boy’s equipment, which is pointing proud and happy toward the ceiling of the room, jutting upward at the forty-five degree angle I’d suspected. While I examine the boy, I pull off my shoes and socks, perhaps an overly optimistic gesture of boyhood anticipation, but one I find appropriate at the time.

Turning my attention back to Charlie’s hard member, I discover that we differ in some ways. Charlie’s balls are somewhat larger than mine. Not huge, but pretty big. Now that his dick is out in the open, illuminated by the dim lighting, I confirm he’s about seven inches long. Like me, his shaft is just about the right thickness to wrap a hand around, and around it my hand strays. I stroke him with my right hand while I stroke myself with my left. Although left-handed, I’m slightly ambidextrous, something I have a newfound appreciation of.

I stroke more rapidly, and Charlie begins moving around more and groaning in his sleep. He’s beginning to precum significantly, and each time his dick pulses I feel another bead of boy lubrication leak out and slide down his helmet, finding its way onto my fingers and then over the skin of his shaft. There are soft squishy noises each time I stroke him, and my entire palm is covered in his juices. I take this as encouragement to go faster, and the sounds get me aroused enough to start producing my own natural lubricants, which feel luxurious as I slide my increasingly slick fingers over my engorged helmet, which is pulsing and feels unbelievably sensitive tonight.

The confusion I’ve been feeling the past two weeks seems to melt away. This is probably the most erotic experience of my life thus far, and definitely the most naughty. I allow a slight moan escape my lips as pleasure courses through my young body. I feel the lust in my chest, down my stomach and deep in my balls. I bite my lower lip and open my eyes, looking at this sexy boy lying on the empty cot. He’s masculine, and yet still beautiful. His penis throbs as I continue to rhythmically stroke up and down, and then up and down again. I look into his eyes.

Oh my fucking jesus shit fuck, he’s awake!

Ok, so that’s not the brightest thing to have passed through my mind, and I make a mental note to expand my vocabulary. Then I completely freeze, a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. A bazillion thoughts streak through my shocked brain, foremost of which is a vision of Charlie telling everyone in our flat what I’d been doing and getting my ass kicked out.

I’m sure it was an amusing sight – me looking like a scared rabbit with two boners in hand. My groin is pulsing with wet, sticky lust, but my stomach is sitting up in my chest and I feel like I just might vomit. I resist, figuring that puking on the guy would be adding insult to injury at this point. I hold my breath. I figure he might punch me, or yell. Or maybe he’ll be the one to throw up on me.

Ultimately, Charlie just smiles at me, as if there’s nothing unusual about waking up to Devon wanking you in your sleep while stroking himself. Go figure.

Charlie’s eyes are glazed over. I can tell he’s still really drunk, but his smile is wide and sweet. He has slightly crooked incisors, which gives his face an added air of boyish innocence. In my shock, I’ve released my grip on his dick. To my immense surprise, the guy reaches down, takes my hand, and holds it tight against his hard cock. It’s not hard to interpret this, and I receive the message loud and clear. I begin stroking him again and he gasps deeply, repositioning himself on the bed and arching his back a little.

I decide to focus on him, using both hands to pleasure him this time. With my right I pull on his balls and tickle them with gentle touches. I like playing with my own balls, so I figure he might like it too. He clearly does. They’re really warm to the touch, but at the same time very soft, and fun to feel rolling around between my fingers. My left hand works his shaft, which seems even a little harder than before. I make my grasp a little firmer (but not too hard), and stroke him firmly.

He’s so wet that his cock slides fluidly in my hand. He’s breathing a lot harder now, and gasping a little. His noises make my body convulse, and shortly thereafter I feel a slick of precum drip onto my leg, already cold from the air in the room. My own boner untended, it seems to be furiously expelling copious amounts of lubrication, and I can feel wetness dripping down my shaft, over my sack, and in growing pools on my thigh, where the unused precum is collecting.

I grunt, an almost involuntary primal sound, and the sexual energies in the room culminate in an intense, almost electrical, discharge. Charlie’s body tenses and his mouth opens wide in ecstasy; he sits up slightly and starts making a cute barking noise just as his penis starts convulsing and spraying cum.

His eyes scrunched tightly closed in orgasmic pleasure, his first shot flies up toward his left shoulder, actually clearing it and landing on the wall with a soggy splat. The second and third shots hit his chest and immediately begin to ooze slowly down his torso. Wow, you can really feel the intensity of the orgasm in his penis. With each pulse I feel the strong muscular contractions that help eject his creamy white semen. It’s like a machine, pumping and pumping Charlie’s load out into the nighttime air.

As his orgasm slows and ultimately ends, he continues grunting in an almost pleading manner, flinging himself back down against the mattress with a gasp. This post-coital recline is a picture of boyish sexual contentment – even his hard dick, still wet and red and large, looks happy somehow.

I massage his cock some more, but it’s clearly overly sensitive. He giggles and shifts his weight so that it slides out of my hand. We sit in silence for a minute, him lying on the bed and me sitting in the floor with my hand on his tummy. I can feel his heart beating through the skin of his belly, his pulse still elevated from the sexual activity.

Then he sits up, puts his legs on either side of me, and drops his arms onto my shoulders. I look up into his eyes with a slightly guilty expression, not sure what to expect. “Thanks,” he says sincerely, but he’s still really drunk so it comes out all slurred and funny sounding.

Charlie takes his arms off my shoulders and runs a hand down my chest. “Wow,” I say.

The feeling of his fingertips against my pectorals is electric and intoxicating. I’m in a haze for a moment, thinking I might cum right then. When his touching reaches my stomach, I realize he’s about to try to return the favor. My penis starts to throb in silent encouragement, but something about this doesn’t seem right. I mean, yeah, I just jerked him while he was passed out without his permission, but I was the one being dirty. He was just on the receiving end. I didn’t want him to sober up and feel abused – at least no more than he was sure to already, so I mustered all of my willpower (which took a ton!) and pushed his hand away.

He looks at me questioningly. “No, not when you’re drunk,” I explain. “I probably shouldn’t have done you either.”

He rolls his eyes, exclaiming “I’m not drunk!” with a drunken giggle before losing his balance and collapsing back against the mattress. He looks at the ceiling questioningly, probably wondering why it won’t stay still. “I need a shower,” he adds.

He’s covered with spunk and he smells of alcohol and a day spent in high temperatures, apparently never having washed earlier, so I can’t really argue with him about needing a shower. I stand, my cock still erect and free in the open air. Charlie also tries to stand, but when he almost falls over again I’m forced to help him, looping my arms under his to help him steady himself. “Yeah, you got yourself pretty drunk there, guy,” I say. “Think you can go wash up so I can take you home?”

He nods and scoots off in the direction of the bathroom, pulling his boxers up as he goes.

And then, as soon as I hear him enter the bathroom down the hall, I start flogging myself so fast and so hard that my hand is nothing more than a blur. In about ten seconds I come, spraying all over the place.

I don’t care that it flies all over the mattress, the carpet, and that some dribbles down onto my underwear. It isn’t just an orgasm, it’s like my whole body is exploding. The spot on my chest where Charlie had laid his hand feels warm and tingly. I experience what feels like forty-seven orgasms in one, and then collapse, spent. Huffing to catch my breath, I stow my still-hard boner back in my shorts and button my jeans, concerned that Charlie could return at any minute. Fucking hell, what a night!

I’m still catching my breath when I hear a muffled grunt and the light clinking of something tapping against the metal floor. At first I freak, thinking Beck or Chris had come looking for us. I jump to my feet, not wanting anyone to see my post-orgasmic pose or the evidence of my activities. An inspection of the hallway reveals that the flat is still unoccupied, barring Charlie, who’s noisily messing around in the bathroom. I figure I should go help him before he slips and cracks his skull or something.

Charlie is standing under one of the communal showerheads, a stream of running water flowing over his naked body. Well, that should help sober him up, if it doesn’t drown him first. Fuck, the guy is still unbelievably hot, I think to myself. He does a reasonably good job of cleaning himself off, eventually stepping out of the shower and drying off. He puts his boxers back on, and then once we’re back in the bedroom I help him into his shirt.

Once we’re both reasonably dressed, we make our way back to our dorm without incident, although Charlie stumbles the whole way and I have to support half his weight the entire time. We’re both barefoot, padding along – I couldn’t locate his shoes, and I’m not actually sure if he even had any up there – and I just forgot mine. By the time we get back, I find everyone in our flat asleep, even Beck. I put Charlie in his bed and walk across the hall to crawl into my own.

Before I fall asleep, I think about what happened. I didn’t feel guilty about feeling Charlie up, but I was a little scared. I mean, the guy is a flatmate, and if he tells everyone what I did I’m not sure what that would mean for me. Would they throw me out? Laugh at me? Beat the crap out of me? I just didn’t know. On the other hand I had to ask: did he like it? Would he want to do it again?

The next day, I get up and enter the living room, taking a deep breath first. And then nothing happens. Nor does anything happen two hours later when Charlie stumbles out of bed, making a mad dash for the restroom and, I assume, looking for a safe place to vomit. When he emerges, he takes some razzing from a few of the guys.

“Overdid it, huh?” Jacob asks. I roll my eyes. It’s a sort of asshole question to pose to someone who just had a lengthy hangover upchuck.

“Yeah,” Charlie replies. I hold my breath. “I have no idea how much I drank last night. I remember going over to six with Chris and the guys, and then…nothing. Wow, I was hammered.” He smiles, the shy smile of a boy who is both a little embarrassed but a little proud at how much alcohol he consumed. I breathe a sigh of relief.

Shifts are cancelled for the day, as compensation for the horrible hours spent baking away in our flats. Conner messages me and asks to hang out. I agree, and ask if we can spend some time in the Commons. The open space seems like it will be nice following a day confined to our flat. He agrees.

Before I head over, I walk up to twenty-four, and then to the room where I’d found Charlie the night before. I want to make sure we’d cleaned up all the evidence of our activities, particularly the empty liquor bottle. I didn’t want any trouble for Charlie. I’d also left my socks in a pile by the bed.

The area was empty and just as dim and cool as the night before – it was like no time had passed at all. The temperature and lighting in our rooms fluctuated slightly, mimicking a twenty-four hour day. Here things remained constant, unchanging.

Looking over the bedroom, we’d done a pretty good job of cleaning up. I’d even managed to get all the spunk off the wall (Man, Charlie could shoot!) and I feel an odd pride about that.

I look for my socks under the bed, but can’t find them. Annoyed, I search further, first looking around the bed where Charlie had lain and then searching the floor of the entire bedroom. I don’t find what I’m looking for, so I double my efforts. It may sound stupid, but my reasons extend beyond wanting to cover up evidence of boyhood mischief. I’d brought the socks from Earth, and although we could make new clothes on the ship, I was finding myself particularly attached to anything I’d owned before the launch.

I decide they must have gotten pushed way under the bed, back into some recess I can’t quite reach or see. I access a panel on the headboard, and tell the computer to stow the entire bunk. With a series of whirs and buzzes, the mattress deflates, seeming to completely disappear into the hard surface of the bed’s platform frame. And then it slides back into the wall, a panel sliding shut so that all evidence a bed was ever here is gone. The floor is now bare and visible, but there are no socks. Dang it.

This is when I notice something odd.

The hatch to the emergency tunnels is slightly ajar. This is odd because not only are they not supposed to be open, they slide shut automatically after a few minutes. I look at the door curiously, and see a white piece of fabric wedged into the bottom corner of the opening – one of my missing socks.

Walking over to the hatch, I reach up and grab my mysteriously wandering garment. With a slight tug, I free it from its position and the hatch slides closed, sealing silently. I’m about to ask myself how my sock got all the way up there when I notice that it’s damp. I turn it over in my hand, noticing a glob of drying yellowish fluid in the center of the fabric – it’s unmistakably semen.

“Gross!” I exclaim, dropping the gooey sock in disgust.

I look up at the hatch. Taking my illicit key from its hiding place in my wristcom, I open the door to the tunnel. I have to jump up to reach the high ledge, and then pull myself up into the space. The tunnel is empty – I don’t even find the match to my soiled sock, but it smells faintly of sweat, the almost-unmistakable odor of someone who’d spent the day in exceedingly high temperatures. Then I think back to the sound I’d heard just after Charlie and I had fooled around, that light moan I’d thought was Charlie cleaning up.

Somebody had been spying on me!

I was instantly annoyed. And then angry. Also perturbed, confused and scared. Who’d been watching from the other side of the vent last night? And why? What did he want?

It seemed obvious he’d “enjoyed” himself – the load in the sock was neither Charlie’s nor mine. Had he meant to spy on us, like I had Mike that one afternoon? Or had he been curious about Charlie or me, accidentally stumbling on us like I had with Sean and Dog?

A million thoughts raced through my mind. Would he tell? Would he try to blackmail me?

I tried to put these thoughts out of my mind. I was late for meeting Conner, and I couldn’t let this consume my life. Still, I was a little scared about what I’d discovered.

And above and beyond the fear, I had to think about the anonymous sneaky wanker.

Did I know him?

Was he cute?

There were no forthcoming answers, but it didn’t stop me from wondering if I’d ever find out more about him. As it turned out, yes, and there was absolutely no way I could have ever guessed at the total long-term implications of that night with Charlie, or what it meant that we’d been spied on.

For now, though, I put these thoughts out of my mind, entering the Commons and seeing Conner waiting at a table at the far end of the Forward Concourse, right where we’d agreed to meet. I wave, and he waves back, and I determine to make the day a great one. And I do.

To be continued

Author’s endnotes:

Thanks for reading. If you’re curious, here are a few brief notes about this chapter.

Soundtrack: I try to assign a song to each chapter, just for my own personal fun. Put them all together, and you’d have a pretty good soundtrack (in my opinion). The song for chapter three is the Guy Sigsworth remix of O Caminho by Bebel Gilberto. I imagine it both as the song Beck plays for Devon and music appropriate when Devon discovers the sleeping Charlie.

The name of the project that creates the miniature black hole that destroys the sun is MALLSNERD. This is a reference to the film 2010: The Year We Make Contact. In that film, actress Candice Bergen voiced the computer SAL 9000, but was listed in the credits as Olga Mallsnerd.

The Kardashev Scale measures theoretical interstellar civilizations based on their energy usage. A Type I civilization makes use of an energy output equal to or in excess of that available to their planet, roughly 1.74 x 1017 watts in Earth’s case. A Type II civilization uses energy equivalent to that put out by their star, roughly 4.0 x 1026 watts.

The movie Patrick suggests is, in my mind, The Royal Tenenbaums by Wes Anderson.

Beck and his “MIPs” was inspired by my friends, who all religiously collect MP3 music files and MP4 video files. My roommate has about ten terabytes of data now, and it made me think about how the boys on the ship might all have personal storage drives.

The heatwave is inspired by a real event in college. One day we had horrible wildfires nearby, and the smoke was blowing into the city so that we had to seal up the windows and doors and stay inside. It got up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 C) and we had no AC in the dorms. Like the boys, my roommates and I slowly stripped, sweated and became increasingly cranky.








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