The story so far:

Devon Chasen is a seventeen-year old college freshman. At least, he was before a science experiment brought about the end of the sun, and the earth with it. As such, he ended up on an escape vessel – one of thousands – which is on a mission to find a new home.

It’s on the ship that Devon figures out that he’s gay. It also doesn’t take him long to figure out that being on a ship with five thousand male students will present a lot of sexual opportunities. Ultimately he stumbles onto one with a boy named Charlie, and when the two realize how much they enjoyed it, they conspire to form a wank-off club with some of the other boys on the ship. There’s the sexy Zane, the youthful Mike, and others. They all meet on Friday night for boy fun, and things seem great.

In the non-sexual arena, Devon has some pretty good friends. Conner is studying to become a fulltime doctor on the ship, but he’s still had time to forge a friendship with Devon. Patrick, one of Devon’s best friends from school, has also proven faithful and true. Unfortunately, Devon’s very best friend, Reid, began ignoring Devon around the time Devon realized he was gay. This has caused some strife.


Space Ship Boys

Chapter 10 – The Talk




It’s funny how a mood can change suddenly, or how a day that’s going well can veer off-course and crash and burn. This is what I was considering in the seconds after I ran into Reid unexpectedly.

Reid, my best friend who I’d stopped talking too because he’d stopped talking to me. Reid, who had caused me so many sleepless nights. Reid, who had somehow found his way to the private sanctum my friends and I had established in secret in an unoccupied dorm on an unoccupied floor.

The room was a little too quiet to be comfortable; I suppose a direct consequence of hanging out on an unoccupied floor. Reid must have sensed this too; he was shifting his weight from one foot to another, as if that would fend off the awkward silence.

“So, uh, nice place,” he finally says, gesturing to the couch and living room around us. I have to smile at his joke – this room is an exact copy of our own living room upstairs, with the exception that this one is clean. There are no empty glasses or discarded t-shirts or the other clutter that seemed to accumulate wherever single guys live.

“Yeah,” I reply. I’d had a lot of anger towards Reid, and I’m sure some of it was obvious in my voice despite being amused.

Reid continues talking, and I get the sense that he does so because a hanging silence would be worse. “Look, Devon, this is really hard for me. I don’t really know what to say.”

He trails off, looking a little sheepish. I cross my arms over my chest, not the friendliest gesture in the world. Reid moves to the oversized sofa and plops down audibly. I consider sitting next to him, which would make the conversation a little easier, but decide to remain standing.

Silence descends upon us once again, this time lasting a full four minutes while Reid mulls over what he’d like to say. I actually start to get a little bored of the awkwardness before he speaks again. Finally he does, but rather than look me in the face he stares at his feet, tapping his toes nervously from time to time.

“I guess what I want to say is…I don’t get something…what did I do to make you hate me so much?”

The question hangs in the air. I’m instantly confused. I’d expected confrontation, and I’d expected Reid to be angry with me, accusatory. The dreaded silence threatens to return, and it feels unbearable after Reid’s statement, so I quickly respond in a quiet voice.

“I don’t…hate you.”

Reid remains staring at his feet, but he seems more able to express himself when he begins speaking. “Really?” he asks, “Because for weeks I’ve been trying to figure out what I did – what I could have done – that made you so mad. We used to be best friends, and now everything is really weird.”

His defensiveness might be endearing under other circumstances, but his ignorance is annoying and I find myself growing angry. What he did to piss me off was completely shun me when I decided I was gay, and that was about the worst time in my life to be ignored by him. I’d felt alone, isolated, and I’d been afraid I’d have to spend the next two decades without friends.

“Yeah, things are weird,” I reply. The acknowledgment of this fact isn’t overly helpful to the conversation.

“Jeez, Devon, you have to give me something here. I have no idea what the fuck is going on.”

And I can see that he means it – that he’s earnestly confused. It softens me a little, although it’s annoying in it’s own way. I feel like he should know exactly why there was a wedge between us – he’d caused it, after all.

“I think it’s pretty obvious,” I reply, a little colder than I intend.

Reid looks me in the eyes, which makes me back down a little. “Is it?” he asks. “Because all I know is that we seemed like brothers on Earth, and now…and now we don’t.”

I don’t know exactly how I feel at this moment. Annoyed, angry, awkward. Someone more mature would probably put those feelings on the fence, but I let them seethe into my response. “Well that doesn’t seem like my fault,” I reply.

“No, I know it’s not. I just don’t get it. I don’t get why you’re ditching all your old friends - why you’re ditching me. Especially after everything we’ve been through.”

The core of this issue is my sexuality, and I decide not to dance around the issue any longer. “I wouldn’t say that I’m ditching my old friends, but I can’t help being gay, and I can’t help it if you don’t like that.”

Reid stares at me. “What are you talking about?” he asks defensively.

“I’m talking about the fact that I like sleeping with other boys,” I snap, “I’m sorry you hate me because of that.”

Now it’s Reid’s turn to get defensive. “Jesus, Devon, what the hell is wrong with you? I never said that I hated you because you were gay.”

“No, but you didn’t have to. You totally avoided me the second I started being gay, and I got the message.”

Reid arches his eyebrow, and his response is angry. “I have no idea what your deal is. I mean, I always thought we were the kind of friends who supported each other. And then suddenly one day you just started treating me like such a total dickwad.”

And this is how fights begin. I accuse Reid of his actions the night of the party; I yell at him for the way he’d avoided me that night and how he’d acted thereafter. He yells at me for being self-centered and aloof.

“Avoid you?” he asks incredulously. “I never avoided you. I gave you space, yeah, but I was never avoiding you.”

I stare at Reid, and I think it’s clear from my expression that I don’t believe him.

We fight for a bit, say some things that aren’t very nice and some other things that are overly angry. It’s clear that Reid is as angry at me as I’ve been at him, although I have to give him credit that he’s the one that is trying to reconcile things. I’d been too afraid to all these weeks. Yelling back and forth at each other now, it doesn’t seem that terrifying, although I’m really pissed off. But I let Reid express himself.

“Jeez Devon, think about things from my perspective for once. It’s not like there was a moment in time where all of a sudden you had a big sign on your head that said you needed support. I always thought you might decide to be gay, even back at school. It’s hard to miss. The way you look at guys – the way you look at me. But you never talked about it so I gave you space.

“And then finally you say something, but you don’t come to me – your best friend. You send Patrick to tell me, and then rather than talk to me after the party like he said you wanted to, you just ditched me. What was I supposed to think about that? I figured it meant you wanted to sort things out on your own.”

I think back to the night of the hundred day party. It was true, I’d asked Patrick to have Reid meet me after, but then I’d gotten so pissed at Reid because of how he was acting that I’d left early.

Reid continues, “And then after the party you didn’t want to have anything to do with us, with me especially. You got all these new friends; you started hanging out down here. I mean, it’s ok, but I don’t get why you being gay means you have to drop all your old friends.”

I’m not sure that I wanted them to, but Reid’s words were seeping in, and I found myself thinking about how the past few months had seemed to him. I’d always thought about the issue as one-sided. Was Reid right? Was this whole thing as much my fault as it was his?

Suddenly I’m very confused, and as if this feeling is a physical weight I can’t bear, I plop down on the couch next to Reid. I don’t know what to say to all of this, but I make an attempt. “Look, I’m not trying to drop you. I just…I just thought you were angry with me, or maybe disgusted with me. It was hard, you know, and really confusing.”

Reid responds, a little less angry now, “I know, Devon, but I always thought that we were like brothers. That’s what we said, right? Back on Earth? That we always wanted to be there for each other? I thought it was clear that I’d always support you. If you want to be a chef, great. If you want to date girls, fine. Boys? Even better. No matter what, I’m your friend and I’ll stick by you. I thought that’s how we were.

“But then when you did start going through something, and I had no idea what it was that was messing you up so bad, you kept me at arm’s length and then you just ditched me. It was like losing a brother, Devon. It was worse than losing Earth.”

Reid was staring back at his shoes again, but I could see that his eyes were wet. He wasn’t crying, but it was the closest I’d ever seen him come. It was perhaps this that brought revelation to us both – we’d both been hurt, and it had made us both angry. But we were both too stupid to fix things right away.

Well, to be honest, I was too stupid. Reid was right, wasn’t he? I’d given all the signals a guy give when he wants to be left alone, and he’d respected that. And when I thought about it, I had gone off and made new friends – Charlie, Mike, Zane. And they were great friends. But when I reflected on the past weeks, I realized that maybe things hadn’t been the same for Reid. I didn’t see him hanging out with new friends. Mostly he hung out with Patrick, or he’d be alone. Sheesh, maybe I had abandoned the guy, and maybe I owed him an apology.

I express this to Reid, and although my words aren’t very adept he gets it, and he agrees. And this begins the process of making up; this is the moment when the conversation shifts from two ex-friends yelling at one another to two reconciled friends patching things up. It’s late, but neither of us seems tired, and suddenly it feels like we have a lot to talk about. And we do talk, for hours, and it feels really nice to be conversing with my best friend again.

Eventually we both realize that things are going to be ok, and we both laugh a little more freely. I think about how sometimes the simple things are so important. Reid sitting next to me, us giggling about an incident with Patrick and the resident squirrel population, this is what is important in my life right now. Coming to appreciate this, I feel foolish that we allowed a wedge to come between us, and I take the conversation back into the realm of the serious for a moment.

“Hey Reid?” I ask.

“Yeah?” he asks, a chuckle still caught in his throat.

“We’re good? I mean for real?”

This time Reid looks me directly in the eyes when he speaks. “Always,” he says, and it makes me smile.

I find a general feeling of contentment falling over me. Or it may be exhaustion – I’m used to staying up late on Friday night, but it’s approaching four am. I nestle into the couch, which is the kind of chair that’s only really comfortable at four o’clock when you’re too tired to think much about it.

“There is one question, though,” Reid says, also sitting back into the sofa.

“Yeah?” I ask.

“I’m not lying in a huge pool of spooge from one of your get-togethers, am I?”

I almost immediately turn red. Reid knew I hung out down here - I don’t know how he knew, but his statement makes it clear he knows at least some of what I get up to. “Um,” I stutter, “You know about that?”

Reid looks over at me. He’s smiling, but even if he weren’t, we’d covered so much ground in our talk that I don’t think I’ll ever be worried about what he thinks of me again. “Duh. I mean, I’m not stupid, and you aren’t nearly that clever.”

I can feel myself turning a million shades of red, and decide that sarcasm is my best weapon. “I don’t know, you seem pretty stupid and I feel pretty clever,” I remark.

There are two consequences for my comment. First, Reid reaches over and tickles me, which catches me off-guard and sets me in a bout of defensive giggling. Secondly, once he relents (which isn’t until I’m about to pass out), it takes our conversation in a new direction, and perhaps for the first time in our friendship we talk earnestly about sex, and I bring up the jerk club.

“Nah,” I say, replying to his comment about the couch, “we never do anything in here. Usually that room,” I point.

“Ah. Cool.”

And Reid actually is cool with it. We talk about sex, and about how sex on earth was different from sex on the ship. We even talk about masturbation, which is a subject we’d never broached before. About times we’d nearly been caught, and then I tell Reid about our wank club. I leave out all the names, but Reid seems to know most of the guys anyway. I guess we haven’t been that secretive.

Reid listens with interest to some of my tales, particularly my adventure in the engineering room. I feel stupid for having doubted him – he’s about as open-minded as anyone ever could be. Turns out I’d just never bothered to test this. I’m trying to recant the feeling one gets in one’s balls when you’re standing in that particular engineering room when the engines fire, and I look over at Reid. My story seems to be getting him a little boned. He’s lying back against the couch, and there seems to be a notable lump to his pants.

“Somebody needs to get laid,” I comment.

Reid looks down at his slightly tented crotch. “Dude, I do need to get laid. You have no idea how lucky you are. I mean NO IDEA. You end up on a ship with almost five thousand single guys. I end up on a ship with like two-hundred fifty-seven girls, and most of them are onboard because they came with their boyfriends.”

“Yeah,” I agree. “Well, you can always join our club.” It’s more a joke than a sincere offer, although I certainly wouldn’t argue if Reid did want to join in.

He looks over to me and smiles. “Nah, I have this thing where I’m sure at least one of the two fifty seven will eventually dump their loser boyfriend and go out with me. In the meantime, well, I have thumbs.” Reid puts his right hand in his lap and gives his bulge a little squeeze.

I imagine what it will be like when one of the girls on the ship suddenly becomes eligible, and how she might react to a thousand first-date offers. I really am very lucky to be a young gay guy on a ship with almost nothing but college-age guys. But it seems cruel to stay on this topic with Reid, so I go back to a story I’d been telling.

“So like I was saying, he’s lying passed out on the bunk. Only, his dick is popping through his fly, right? So I walk over there…” It’s the story of how I’d encountered Charlie the first time we’d gotten together, albeit I don’t mention Charlie by name.

The effect of the sex talk on Reid becomes more pronounced. His lump grows and he leaves his hand on top of it. I smile mischievously as I watch this out of the corner of my eye. We’d made up, and I thought it was pretty clear that he didn’t think he’d ever want to try stuff with guys. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t get him turned on and send him off with a case of blue balls.

Speaking of which, I noticed that my story had resulted in a hardon of my own. Well, either the story or Reid having a boner in such close proximity. I continue talking, but decide it’s ok to put my hand in my lap too, and I give myself a little squeeze when I do.

This doesn’t escape Reid’s notice, and while I recount the first time I felt Charlie’s dick, Reid moves his thumb back and forth across the tent in his jeans. I follow suit, and before long we’re both fully boned in our pants.

I figure that I should let the guy off the hook and send him on his way to jerk-off bliss in some private location, so I wrap up my story. But Reid seems happy where he is, and after I’d been quiet a full thirty seconds he asks, “Got any more stories?”

I smile at him. Hey, if he wants to get wound up to my adventures, who am I to stop him? I decide to tell him about the Info or Actions game that had started the club, and I take my time setting the scene. Reid again takes me by surprise, unexpectedly sticking his right hand down the front of his pants. It’s a bold move, stepping firmly over the line between getting aroused and openly playing with yourself.

Thinking about where my friend’s hand now lies, I feel a throb in my own jeans. I reach into my waistband with my left hand, first a little wary because I don’t want to scare Reid off or offend him. It doesn’t seem to, and when I’m sure of this I continue my story, our hands now both holding our respective assets.

Although Reid leaves on all his clothes, there is no disguising this as anything but a sexual act. His hand is clearly stroking his boner deep in the confines of his pants, and although I would love for that boner to be in the open air, the secretive naughtiness and rustling sound of his jeans is quite a turn on. So is his puppy-dog expression, his eyes closed and pink lips scrunched up in a way that conveys both pleasure and pain.

“Are you sure you’re ok with this?” I ask, still fondling myself.

Reid looks at me. “Yeah. I mean, I am if you are. I don’t want it to mean…well, you know we’re just friends.”

The statement is sort of hurtful, but then not really. I was so glad to have Reid back as a friend, and although I could imagine another universe where he’d make a good boyfriend, it wasn’t this one. “And brothers,” I reply. “So this isn’t weird, because I always thought if I had a brother…”

I trail off, the only sound in the room that of Reid and me playing with ourselves in our pants. “Yeah, I’m sure you did,” he laughs.

I continue my story and we both continue pleasuring ourselves. I watch Reid’s lap intently, trying to imagine what’s going on behind the annoying veil of fabric. The story is indeed arousing, but I suspect Reid is at a point where he wouldn’t really need it to go on. Still, I describe how Zane had made Mike go around the circle, letting everyone touch his erection.

“You guys are too much,” he says.

“Yeah,” I agree.

I actually have no idea how Reid is jerking in his pants and enjoying it. Maybe he has a looser fit or something, but my waistband is tight and there isn’t enough space in the crotch for my boner AND my hand AND moving it all around. Again, I don’t want to scare Reid away, but I can’t help it. First I unbutton my pants, which creates a little more room. When Reid doesn’t react negatively, I take down my zipper. It’s funny, but I try and keep my dick somewhat concealed in my pants despite the open zipper.

I’m not sure Reid would have cared if I stripped naked. He just continues stroking away in his pants, looking over to me now and again, but keeping his eyes shut for the most part.

It gets hard for both my brain and cock to function, and as per usual my cock seems to win out as my words get cluttered with grunts and groans. “So…uh…he throws me down in the planting bed, and all…ergh…of a sudden…ah….our dicks are together, and all slippery…”

“Wow…AH…OH…wow,” Reid replies with his own moans of pleasure.

I am reveling in the scene, in my ability to bring pleasure to my friend, if not with my hands than with my words. Reid starts panting more heavily and I know that he’s close. I lay on him the steamiest part of my story.

“Oh…man…geez…I gotta get a girlfriend…AH…that’s hot, Devon…”

I let the girlfriend comment pass and move my story to the climax, which seems to set off Reid’s climax as well.

“Ah, ah, ah!” he moans in little chirps, his face screwed up in pleasure as he convulses forward in his seat a little. I’ve noticed that guys all cum really differently, and for Reid an orgasm seems to be very relaxing; his climax has a calm, almost Zen-like quality to it.

When he lies back to catch his breath, I’m pretty sure that a rather large and sticky deposit has been made in his pants. I’d watched his whole orgasm intently (of course), and now it was time for me. I begin stroking furiously, eager to cum. Overcome by lust, I allow my dick to fully stick out of my fly. The zipper pokes into the underside of my shaft uncomfortably on each stroke, but I ignore it and pump away.

“Ah, ah, ah!” I coo when I cum. Usually I make a bit of noise when I finish, but I purposely tone it down because Reid is sitting next to me. My semen lands on my lower belly in warm comforting splats, and I utter a content sigh.

Reid and I both lie back in the couch, my dick softening and retreating back into the fly of my pants, his bulge shrinking to its normal still-not-unimpressive state. I reflect on the cooling splotch of cum that is now coating the inside of my t-shirt in an unappealing manner. Neither of us speak for a few moments; I think we might both be on the verge of falling asleep.

And it’s this moment in time the cements our relationship in the category of brothers rather than just friends. The act we’d just committed was intimate, sure, but I realize that although it was sexual, it wasn’t a sexual energy being expressed between us. Rather, it was like both Reid and I were expressing our sexual energies – our desires for those around us – together, me thinking about Charlie and Zane and the guys and Reid thinking about, hmm, whomever Reid thought of as sexual. Some girl off on a sandy beach somewhere, I supposed.

“Devon,” Reid says in a tired voice after several minutes, “There’s something else I came down here to talk to you about.”

“Yeah?” I ask, my own voice seeping with sleepiness.

Reid shifts in his seat to look at me more directly. “It’s just…things might get a little weird.”

I’m exhausted, but my interest in piqued. I look back at Reid quizzically.

He continues, “The thing is, things seem like they’re getting a little tense, and there’s some weird stuff going on. Patrick and I have been trying to figure some stuff out, and I just wanted you to know that.”

“Um…ok,” I reply. I know immediately what tension he’s referring to. It’s the never-ending griping from Steven Caine and his dickwad friends. I roll my eyes. I fucking hate the retarded politics that have been going on. Some guys want work to be distributed one way, some another. It had gotten to the point where Eden, the elected mayor of the civilian population, had been forced to form a security force in order to prevent some of the sillier things you might expect from enraged college students – crude graffiti, childish sit-ins, that sort of thing.

“I mean, I’m sure it’s nothing to worry too much about,” Reid says.

“Trust me, I don’t,” I reply. “I couldn’t give a shit what goes on with those guys. I just like doing my job, then goofing off when I’m not working. I’m perfectly fine staying a mile away from any of that crap.”

“Good,” Reid says, a shadow of concern crossing his face. I assume that he’s with me on this sentiment, but in later months I come to realize that in fact he was being protective of me, like a good big brother would, and that too makes our friendship stronger.

For now, however, we amble off to bed, making the long walk to our dorm together in silence. But as tired as I am, I’m beaming on the inside, and it feels like a weight has been lifted – Reid and I are friends again. When I collapse into my bunk, a weight of a different sort descends upon me, and I fall fast asleep almost instantly.

ii

The following week is very, very busy, but also really fun. With my personal troubles behind me, I discover a new challenge in my young life. Now that I had this group of great friends, I had to figure out a way to balance things so that I got to hang out with them all, and as silly as it sounds, that’s not necessarily easy.

On Sunday, I went looking for Charlie. I felt like it had been ages since we hung out together. And I have to admit, the thought crossed my mind that it also seemed like ages since we messed around together. When I don’t find him in either our official dorm or our secret flat, I message him on my wristcom. His reply comes quickly, telling me that he’s in the west concourse.

This gets me curious, and I head down to see what he’s up to.

The huge domed space of The Commons opens up into three concourses, each one comprised of three stories running a considerable distance through the ship. The concourses always make me think of shopping malls back on Earth, but in this case the first floor was reserved for social stuff – small ponds, gardens, little amphitheaters – stuff like that, where the second and third floors were for offices and commercial spaces.

I figure that Charlie is hanging out in one of the first-floor spaces, goofing off in one of the arcades, or perhaps reading in a Japanese garden he was fond of. I arrive at the garden and find it empty. I’m about to message Charlie when I hear a voice from overhead.

“Yo, Devon. Up here.”

I look up to see Mike hanging over the second floor rail, lazily sipping a drink through a straw. I find the nearest stairs and climb to the second floor. Mike is still standing cross-armed leaning up against the rail when I approach him. He looks pretty tired, actually.

“Hey,” I say.

Mike seems a little slow to respond, but after a few seconds he speaks. “Cranberry chocolate granola smoothie?” he asks, offering me a sip from the cup he’s holding. I can see a viscous looking reddish brown liquid inside.

“Ew, no,” I reply, screwing up my nose. Mike shrugs, as if to say ‘to each his own’. “Hey,” I continue, “Is Charlie up here, he sent me a text.”

Mike points a thumb lazily over his left shoulder and I look behind us. I hadn’t noticed that the storefront he was standing in front of wasn’t closed up like the rest. Instead, the shutters were raised and I could see piles and piles of boxes inside.

I head into the space, wondering what Charlie is doing in here. The stores in this part of the concourse were designated for retail space. True, there wasn’t money on the ship, per se, but part of the overall transition was to form a stable economy within the ship.

I make my way through a maze of cartons, each pile seemingly larger and more insurmountable than the last. Everything seems covered with a thick layer of dust. Yuck. Charlie isn’t in the front of the store, but the door to the back area is open so I enter.

The back room is smaller, but seems even more cluttered, if that’s possible. I notice that you can barely move around in here, then when I see that Charlie’s modified clothing manufacturing unit in the middle of the space I understand why it feels so cramped in here. The thing is huge.

There’s an open panel on one side of the machine, which is notable only in that someone is bent over with their entire front half submersed in the machine, as if being consumed by a mechanical monster. The rear half, a cute ass sticking straight up in the air, is unmistakably Charlie’s. I can’t resist, and walk quietly over to the working boy. Playfully, I give Charlie’s cargo pant-clad butt a solid pinch.

“Ow!” exclaims a voice from within the machine, tinged with a metallic echo. Unfortunately, I’ve taken Charlie a little too much by surprise. He tries to stand up, and I hear an echoing ‘thonk’ when his head comes into contact with the machines. Oops.

“Dammit, Mike!” Charlie says angrily, “I told you to keep your fucking hands out of my pants until I’m done…”

He trails off when he notices that it’s not Mike that has disturbed him. Emerging from the machine, I see that he has a pair of red underwear twisted on his head. I should apologize for pinching him, really, but seeing him angry, covered in dirt and grime with a pair of underwear on his head, I involuntarily break out laughing.

“Hey Devon,” Charlie says crankily. I can tell he’s more annoyed at being laughed at than truly hurt.

“Dude, sorry, couldn’t resist,” I reply, trying to control my giggles. “What the heck are you doing down here? This place is a fucking mess.”

Charlie explains, and while he does so Mike wanders in, sipping his disgusting beverage. Charlie says that he’d petitioned to get this space to use as a clothing store, and that it had been approved immediately. Apparently, the day after our underwear parade he’d received over four hundred orders.

“Wow, that’s awesome!” I say. “Way to go, man.”

Charlie smiles at my praise and continues. In order to produce stuff on a large scale, he and Mike had needed to move the whole operation. So they’d been working all weekend to get the machine transferred to Charlie’s new space, which, Mike explained, had not proven to be a simple process. He was clearly a little disgruntled about having to move the machine they’d spent weeks assembling.

Once the unit was up and running again, they could move on to setting up the front area, Charlie explained. Like most retail stores, almost everything would be automated. The front area would be for displaying Charlie’s stuff, and customers could stop by during open hours to place orders with the computer. It was a neat setup. At least, in theory. Right now it was piles and piles of boxes.

“It all sounds really cool,” I say. “And let me know when you’re taking orders again. I love these undies. The pouch you designed is almost like freeballing.” I sway my hips side to side. Although Charlie and Mike can’t see it, I feel my package swinging between my legs, all snug in the super-cool pouch Charlie had featured on the undies. They laugh at my little dance.

Ultimately, Mike ropes me into helping out. Well, more like he insinuates that anyone helping set up the store will get special treats later that night, and while I don’t consider myself overly predictable…ok, yeah, I’m overly predictable. I take him up on the offer, and although the rest of my Sunday is consumed by work rather than recreation, we all have a pretty good time. And then we have an even better time that night, when Mike makes good on his promises.



On Monday I get to spend some time with Conner, and we’re assigned to finish repairing those pesky planting beds in the farm that keeps malfunctioning.

“Ow!” Conner exclaims as the panel he’d been working on slams noisily shut the millisecond his fingers were out of the way. I am not sure who designed these things with like two hundred pounds of tension to the panel springs, but I’d like to have words with them.

“It’s like they’re trying to kill us,” I remark, implying that the planting beds have some inherent nefarious intentions.

“Yhew, noth kiddith,” Conner mumbles, sucking on the finger he’d almost lost to the planting bed.

We manage to repair all of the beds, and swear that we’ll never set foot in this farm again. Conner mentions that at least we weren’t unclogging pipes from the animal sewage treatment system, a duty one of his nurses had apparently been assigned. I concede his point.

Having completed our work in relatively good health, smashed fingers and sweat-soaked t-shirts notwithstanding, I mention that we’re near the wet farm where we occasionally go swimming. Conner flashes a huge smile, which I take to understand that I’m not going to have to work too hard to convince him to take a dip with me. Still, I pretend to have seconds thoughts.

“On the other hand,” I say with a slight whine to my voice, “I really should maybe get upstairs to…TAG! You’re it!” It’s a childish con, but a fun one, and I take off running. Conner is only confused by my antics for a second before he catches on and takes off after me.

I have to employ a few tricks to stay ahead of Conner. The guy is tall, and runs like a freaking Thomson’s gazelle. But I know the ship a little better, and have a slight advantage in that we’d been gravitized to the plane that would normally be thought of as the ceiling. Normally one would climb one of the designated ladders, then be re-gravitated to the other plane when you got to the top. I, however, have had some practice playing with this system and knew some alternatives.

Conner closing in on me, I run to a thin column in the middle of the room. Leaping towards it at top speed, I scramble up it as fast as I can, using sets of prongs designed to allow workers easy access. A red line on the white pole demarcates the center of the room, and therefore the gravitational planes. This particular column gives you access to the UV beds that simulate sunlight for the plants above and below, although most people who work on the farms wouldn’t know that. I just happen to spend a lot of time playing with stuff like this.

Wanting to get as far ahead as possible, I plant a hand firmly above the red line and jump. As soon as my feet leave the gravitational plane I’m on, I’m regravitized, and what was ‘down’ for me is now ‘up’. Unfortunately, what was ‘up’ is now ‘down’, and I find myself pointing at the floor headfirst. For a moment I think I’m going to fall face-first into the planting bed below me, but I’m able to hold on to the prong I’d grabbed. As my feet fall towards the floor I hold on with my hand and end up flipping over, getting a little dizzy in the process. But it works, mostly, and I’m able to drop the ten feet to the floor with little more than a slight pain in my ankle.

I look up at Conner, who is standing slack-jawed on the ceiling twenty feet above me. “You’re insane,” he says, and he may be right.

I shrug and give him a big grin. “And you’re still it.”

I take off for the door, glancing up behind me when I reach it to see Conner climbing one of the regular ladders. I’d bought some time, but like I said he was fast, so I dart out into the hallway and head towards the wet farm.

I run down the hallway, which being in an industrialized sector is completely deserted. Well, almost completely deserted. Rounding a corner, I almost plow into a guy carrying a tray of baby plants.

“Hey! Watch it!” he growls.

“Sorry!” I exclaim, already several feet past him.

I take the next left, slamming into the wall a little when my speed proves a little too fast compared to my turning capabilities. From behind me I hear someone yell “What the fuck!?” Conner has apparently also run into our plant friend. Dang, he’s gaining on me.

The final hallway is one long stretch to the large steel doors of the wet farm, and I sprint as hard as I can. I can hear Conner behind me, and imagine that at any moment I will feel his fingers grabbing at the collar of my shirt.

It turns out he’s not quite that close. I make it to the door and turn to see him still fifty yards or so behind me, but he’s sprinting very fast. I clamber into the wet farm through the door then slam it behind me, hitting a red button on the door control as I do. I smirk – this will lock the door and require an eleven digit code be entered to unlatch it.

I suppose making it to the farm first qualifies me as the winner, but I consider that Conner might say the first one in the water is the victor. I scramble to pull off my shoes and socks, and while doing so I hear Conner slam into the door behind me. Knowing that I have only seconds before he makes it inside, I pull off my jeans and shirt.

Conner enters noisily just as I’ve finished. For a moment I think he’s going to concede me the winner, standing all huffing and sweaty in the entryway. Then he unexpectedly darts straight at me. For a moment I assume the expression of a small furry critter caught in the headlamps of an oncoming vehicle. Then I take off, running towards where the floor ends and drops off into the massive tank used to house several varieties of marine life.

Conner’s superior speed once again nearly proves my undoing, but my daring foils him yet again. Instead of slowing at the water’s edge in order to dive in elegantly, I just run right off the end of the gangway, dropping the five feet to the water’s surface and landing with a huge and uncomfortable splash. Water plunges into my mouth and nose, and when I surface again I’m spluttering.

I turn to see Conner disrobing, having opted not to plow into the tank fully-clothed. “You are such a little cheater,” he remarks, pulling off his shirt and shoes. I stick my tongue out at him mockingly.

“You are so dead,” he says, pulling down his pants. He actually pulls off both his pants and underwear, and for a moment I get a brief shock as a fully-naked Conner runs towards the water and dives in. We swim here sometimes, but we’ve always worn undies. He does a much better job than I did diving, leaping in an elegant arc that results in only a small splashing sound when he hits the water. I wait for him to resurface, considering that he’s a pretty dang good diver.

All of a sudden I’m attacked from underneath, pulled down by two brawny arms around my thighs. Conner has not only proven an adept diver, it seems that sneak underwater attacks are also one of his skills.

What follows can best be described as two eight year-olds wrestling in their parent’s pool. True, I was seventeen and Conner was twenty-one, and perhaps this should have resulted in considerably more maturity. It doesn’t, and we opt to work off some pent-up energy thrashing around in the water together.

I’d like to think that I can hold my own in the water-wrestling arena, but in this case I think Conner being totally nude gives him a slight advantage. As we grab on to each other and try to pull one another under, my hand wraps around his butt, the muscles flexing and twisting under my palm. I feel something softer at my fingertips, and realize that I’m brushing Conner’s balls. It’s a good hold, but I release, not wanting to offend my friend. This allows him to get me in a superior grip, and eventually I’m blubbering ‘uncle!’ playfully beneath the surface of the water.

When we calm down, there is a slight splash behind us. We turn to see that Beau, one of the tank’s resident minke whales, has surfaced. Although he doesn’t really have the facial musculature necessary to portray true expressions, he clearly seems to be thinking ‘what the hell are these two up to?’ I mention this to Conner and we laugh before swimming over to the friendly whale, which we later offer a treat of herring and anchovies.



Wednesday is one of my free afternoons, and for the past several weeks they had been spent doing boring stuff alone. I always met Zane in the evening for a round of weight lifting, but from noon to five everyone else was working.

As it turned out, Reid and Patrick also had this shift off. I’d just never realized it since Reid and I had been avoiding one another. When we discover this similarity in our schedules, we instantly decide that the time will best be spent at 6-wall ball, a game that had become rather popular on the ship. Reid reserved a court, and we headed down to bottomside after lunch.

Taking the long elevator ride from topside to bottomside, Reid, Patrick and I chatted about the day’s events, I feel a rush of endorphins surge through my body. It’s really good to have my friend back.

As is his custom, Patrick opts to only play about every fifth round. Being a bit of a nerd, he’s really no match for Reid, and I’m not sure he’s into the game as an entertaining activity. I think he more agrees to play to spend time with us, which is fine by me.

However, this means that I have to face-off against Reid in almost every round. 6-wall ball is basically racquetball, with the exception that every wall is polarized as gravitational down so that you can go running up walls, along the ceiling, whatever. It’s really fun, but if I’m completely honest, I’m no match for Reid, who is a little faster and a lot stronger than me. Still, I dive into each round wholeheartedly, and we have a great time. At least mostly we do.

“OW!” I yelp when a very strong return smacks into my ass rather than the far wall.

“Sorry,” Reid shrugs apologetically. It’s the fourth time this afternoon that he’s hit my butt, and along with the stinging sensation I start to get a sneaking suspicion he’s doing it on purpose.

On our next serve the ball careens off at a weird angle. I sprint across the room, running full speed at the right wall. At the last second I leap, landing firming against what instantly becomes a new gravitational down for me. Barely losing a beat, I run across the floor and manage to hit the ball dead center against my racquet. It shoots off with a light ker-thunk, landing exactly where I’ve aimed it. Reid is caught off guard and misses the return, scoring me the winning point of the match. Reid is faster and stronger, but almost no one can match the way I handle the gravitized walls. It just seems to come naturally to me.

After a few more rounds we tire and opt to take a break, grabbing a couple of beverages in the lobby. While I hastily and sloppily chug my sugary fruit-punch flavored drink, Reid compliments my playing.

“You’ve been practicing,” he says, “I was struggling to keep up with you the whole game.”

I smile. He’s beat me seven rounds to three, so he obviously wasn’t struggling that hard. “Thanks,” I reply, “Maybe some day I’ll actually beat your ass.”

We banter back and forth a bit, the sort of merciless joking around you enjoy with friends after a game. It feels really nice. Even Patrick is laughing and joking around, which is rare for him.

“There you are,” a voice interrupts us from behind. I turn to see Zane, who is dressed in his workout gear – a tantalizingly tight black lycra sleeveless t-shirt and red workout shorts. Dammit, does the guy look unsexy in anything?

“Here I am,” I reply, “All warmed up and ready to go.”

“Looks like you’re a little more than warmed up,” Zane says, reaching out to grab the front of my shirt between two fingers. He pulls it about six inches away from my body then released it, the fabric falling back against my chest with a soggy plop. I am indeed a little soaked from my workout.

“I’m good,” I say. After Zane catches up with Reid and Patrick a bit they head off to the showers and we head up to the weight room.

“You keep booking double workouts and you’re going to catch up to me,” Zane says as we round the football field towards the elevators. A loud cheer emanates and we look over to see that someone has made a very lucky shot that proved to be quite exciting to the onlookers.

“I do my best,” I say, flexing my biceps with a silly expression. I’ve gotten a lot stronger being on the ship – between the workouts and daily chores and everything. Still, I’m what? Thirty pounds lighter than Zane? I doubt he has much to worry about in the ‘Devon out-muscling him’ category.

We climb into the lift and Zane pressed ‘five’, the weight room level that is usually the least crowded, and the one that has the machines Zane seems to favor.

“And hey,” he says, “It’s really good seeing you with Reid and Patrick. You guys good?”

“Yeah,” I reply. “Yeah, I think so. We talked it out. And I think everything is going to be okay between us.”

“Cool, bud, that’s really cool. I figured you would, but good for you.”

I beam – it does feel really good to have everything worked out.



On Thursday I discover something. I wouldn’t have thought this would be the case on a spaceship, but it was actually pumpkins that put me in the mood for fall.

Like everyone on the ship, I had several duties, one of which was to work in the farm areas. These are largely automated, of course, but a human touch is still required to keep everything operational. Usually I’m assigned to the areas where we grow staples and grains. But recently there were some changes in how the assignments worked, so I found myself in a smaller farm that produced vegetables, mostly squash.

Because it’s a smaller farm, I was the only one assigned. But it was only for two or three hours a day, so I enjoyed the shifts. Somehow, growing these vegetables seemed far more rewarding than growing wheat or corn. The room consisted of a series of hydroponic towers, which were covered with thick, leafy vines. Splashes of vibrant color emerged here and there where red and green and orange veggies were in various stages of growth.

And perhaps best of all – it got foggy. Well, I’m not sure it’s real fog. But when the plants were sprayed down and the computer shifted temperature to simulate night, a fine layer of mist would cover the ground and roll off the leaves in the planting beds. It made me think of earth, and what it was like when fall came.

And then I’d realized that it was October. October meant that the best parts of the year were fast approaching – Halloween, and then Thanksgiving. Then Christmas, which was made cooler because December also meant my birthday.

I’d been thinking about pumpkin pie and candy and holidays more often, and it was exactly what I was contemplating when I arrived at the farm for my shift to unexpectedly find someone else there. At first I’d thought I was alone, and went about examining some settings on the master controls.

“Hello,” someone said from behind me in a soft-spoken voice.

I jumped about a foot in the air. It was a quiet voice, but I’d been in my own world, as usual. I spun around to see a guy in a tan sweater and brown pants sitting under one of the tree-like towers. He was reading something that appeared to be an actual ink-and-paper book.

“Sorry,” the intruder said in earnest apology. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

I recognized him at once. His name was Jonathan Olin, although he was usually referred to as Lieutenant Olin. He was a member of the permanent crew on the ship – one of the military personnel who’d been assigned to the vessel before launch, manning it in the event it ever needed to take off. And when that need arose, it was the crew who got us safely into space.

There were about three-dozen permanent crewmembers, or so we ultimately came to learn. The first couple of months in space had been non-stop work for them, and it wasn’t until recently that they’d been able to socialize more with the rest of us – the passengers I guess you’d call us.

I hadn’t gotten to know any of the crew that well, but I’d learned they were mostly reservists. Usually former US Space Force who supplemented their income by manning and maintaining the emergency ships in the days when they were more underground facility than vessel.

Lieutenant Olin was younger than most of the other crew, although by the standards on this particular ship he wasn’t that young. Probably early thirties. I’d noticed him before because he had interestingly dark skin that seemed to hint at an ethnic background I couldn’t quite identify. Well, that is probably only partially why I noticed him. He was also svelte and cute in his uniform, which drew my attention for obvious reasons.

“I’m terribly sorry,” he said in a light London accent. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“No, uh, it’s ok. I just didn’t notice you there.”

Lieutenant Olin closed his book and stood, reaching out a hand in introduction. “I’m Jonathan. Jonathan Olin.”

It felt weird for him to be introducing himself. The crew was well known to everyone on the ship. Then, after a second of contemplation, I got it. It was probably a lot easier for the forty-nine hundred passengers to know who the thirty-seven crew members were than it was the other way around. After only a short hesitation I reached out and shook the man’s hand.

“I’m Devon,” I said. “Devon Chasen. I was just, ah, working here this afternoon.”

Lieutenant Olin smiled warmly as he shook my hand. “Yes, you know I think I knew your name was Devon. You’re one of our star chefs, right? If I’m right, you’re the one behind that delightful tart the other night?”

I blushed. It was working in this very farm that gave me the idea – slices of thin buttery pastry cooked with goat cheese and grilled squash. If I were immodest for a moment, I’d say that it was a pretty damn good creation.

“Yeah, that was me,” I replied, trying to suppress a nervous giggle.

“Well it was fabulous. Reminded me a bit of these cucumber sandwiches I used to get for tea. Well, not exactly the same, but similar.”

“Thanks,” I said.

Lieutenant Olin gave a small nod that threatened to become something of a bow. “Well, I shall not distract you further. I like to read here sometimes, but you have work to do and I’ll let you get to it.”

He picked up a grey backpack from the floor and went to put his book away. I tend to be a little shy around new people, but there was something about the way he said he liked to read in here that struck a chord. I could relate. The dampness and all the green were very comforting, and I immediately felt bad about being the cause of shooing him out.

As he moved towards the entry, I blurted out, “No, wait.”

Lieutenant Olin turned to look at me, and instantly I felt a little foolish for no particular reason. In a softer voice I continued. “You don’t have to leave. I mean, my job in here isn’t all that hard and you’re not in the way. I don’t want to interrupt your reading.”

“Ah, well, that’s very kind,” Lieutenant Olin replied. “I think I shall take you up on that offer. I spend far too much time up in Topside, and I have to confess that I rather enjoy taking my breaks in here. It’s very…hmm…I’m not quite sure.”

“Earthlike?” I ask, looking for the right adjective.

Olin smiles. “Yes, I think that’s it exactly. It is very Earthlike in here.”

And interestingly enough, this was how I made a new friend. Lieutenant Olin, who eventually demanded I refer to as Jonathan, stayed through my whole shift, although he didn’t really go back to reading. Instead we chatted, about work, the farms, life. About what we did before launch – me being a student and him being a manager in an office downtown, but a manager who’d previously been in Space Force and who’d remained a reservist, which was how he’d come to be a crewmember with us.

The following day I arrived at work to find him there once again, and once again he offered to leave if he were in the way. I assured him that he was not, and that my schedule permitted me to take as much time as I liked to finish my work in here, and that taking longer with someone there was more fun than rushing through and being efficient.

At first it seemed a little odd. Jonathan was considerably older than me (he was thirty-three I eventually learned). Back on Earth most of my friends were close to my own age, and perhaps under other circumstances Jonathan Olin and I would have never had occasion to become friends. However, as we did, it felt natural and easy-going. He was friendly and easy to talk to, and I got the sense that it was a bit lonely to be a member of the crew, particularly when most of the passengers on the ship were considerably younger.

So it was that I looked forward to the three days a week when I got to spend time amongst the pumpkins with Lieutenant Jonathan Olin, who slowly but surely became merely Jonathan.



And that was what life was like once I fixed my issues, got into a groove on the ship, and started to enjoy life a little more. Reid and some of the other guys might have been predicting rainstorms in the future, but to me things felt clear and sunny. Well, as sunny as things can be in space, which I suppose is a more figurative sunlight.

I arrived home one afternoon, deep in contemplation about how I sort of did miss real sunlight, when I noticed something. We’d arranged our room so that we all five had our own computer areas. Mine was always a little cluttered, perhaps a physical manifestation of how I felt my mind to be. But despite the slight mess, I instantly noticed a data chip lying on a green post-it note.

I walked over to my desk and picked up the chip and note. It was the one I’d left for The Sneak the Friday before.

The message on the post-it was short and simple. It read ‘For Devon’ in a sloppy scrawl. I smiled. I’d asked The Sneak for a show, and was instantly curious as to what wonders he may have recorded for me. Vids of himself? Stuff he recorded guys doing around the ship? A copy of an old documentary on shoelaces?

As I slid the chip into the appropriate slot on my computer I grinned, really hoping that it wasn’t the third one.




















 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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