In early summer of 2361, Jax got out of seventh grade and Jacen got out of sixth grade. (He hadn't skipped any grades like Jax, but he'd started school a year earlier than his cousin, having been born in August while Jax was born in September.) At this point, it's June, and they're both ten.
When Jax got home from the last day of school, Jacen called up. Jax invited him over, and a minute later, two columns of energy appeared on Jax's transporter pad. (Two years ago, Jax had put it together from a kit. It was a rather simple kit, more like modeling than engineering, really. Still, one had to follow directions exactly, and there were protocols built in by the kit's manufacturer to ensure it couldn't be used until certified safe by a qualified inspector.) Jax supposed the second beam must be some stuff Jacen was bringing over, perhaps in case it was decided that he should spend the night, as they each sometimes did at the other's place. But the form of a man quickly took shape beside the coalescing form of the boy. When the transport was complete, standing before him Jax saw Jacen… and Uncle Sean.
"Surprise," said Jacen, smiling.
"Uncle Sean! Long time no see."
"Yes, 'tis," said Sean. "Perhaps too long."
"What're you doing here?"
"Yer older now," was all he said. It was enough; Jax knew right away what he meant. He was packed before Colleen and Peter got home from work.
Sean talked to Jax's guardians privately when they got home. Jax was surprised his uncle actually managed to talk them into letting him go, but he did. And no sooner had Jax said goodbye to his aunt and uncle than Uncle Sean had out an old-fashioned hand-held communicator, which he flipped open. There was a chirping which was familiar to Jax from his studies of his famous great-grandfather's days. Then Sean said, "Cap'n ta Dog. Three ta beam up, an' one set o' luggage." He put the communicator back in his pocket, and the three of them were caught in the beams.
They reappeared in the small transporter room on Uncle Sean's ship.
"What'd you call the ship? The Dog?" asked Jax.
"Yes, th' Destiny Dog, actually?"
"How'd it get that name?"
"Well, I was tryin' ta think o' a name fer it, an' th' firs' thing popped inta m'head wa' 'Destiny Dog,' so I wen' wi' tha'."
"But what does it mean?"
"Mean? Well, I dinnae. Nothin' I know of. Jus' liked th' sound o' it, eh?"
"Okay. So, now what?"
"Now," said Jacen, "I show you to our quarters."
Uncle Sean went to the bridge, and Jacen led Jax to the room they'd be sharing on this trip. Jax stored his things and got used to the room, then he and Jacen went to the bridge. It was really a rather small ship, but it was the first starship Jax and Jacen had ever been on. (Of course, they'd both been on school field trips to the Moon and Mars.) They found only three people on the bridge: Uncle Sean, Aunt Christie, and a male Saurian.
"Hello, Jax. Nice ta see ya again," said Christie. Then she looked at the Saurian. "Allow me ta introduce ya to one of our partners, Jithro Squial T'R'K. …At least, I think those are the current letters, hmmm, Jith?"
He extended a hand to Jax and said, "Jithro Skuial generally suffices for the purposes of outsiders- non-Saurians, I mean. You may call me Jithro, my boy."
"Pleased to meet you, sir," said Jax, shaking his hand.
"And you, Mr. DeSabel. I've heard a great deal about you and your cousin. Now I wonder," he said, with a grin and a glance toward Sean and Christie, "how much have you heard about us?"
"The crew of the Destiny Dog."
"Nothing, really. …Christie said you're partners?"
"Yes, all five of us are technically equal partners, although we generally think of your uncle as captain; Christie, if any of us, would be first mate. She's also our pilot and tactical officer. I'm the scientist of our little group; soon you will meet the engineer and the doctor. Of course, we all do more than our primary job titles would indicate. We can all handle any of the stations on the ship, though of course we're each best at our primary work."
"Well, I can hardly wait to meet the others, and get to know you all." Jacen had already met them all, as he had brought his things aboard and taken a quick tour of the ship before calling Jax. But he too was looking forward to getting to know the crew- including his own aunt and uncle- better.
"But first," said Sean, "a tour o' th' bridge, such as it is." And it was indeed a brief tour. The ship could easily be handled by one person, if necessary- barring emergencies, of course. Jax looked at each of the somewhat cramped (but not uncomfortably so) stations. It didn't take him long to pick up the basics of operating each one, though he couldn't man a station by himself without more in-depth training. Well, the duration of the trip would suffice for that.
Then Sean took Jax on a tour of the rest of the ship. Jacen tagged along, as it was all still quite new to him. The first stop was the main cargo bay, which at the moment was mostly empty. Directly below that was the hidden cargo bay, which was shielded from sensors. It was filled with weapons.
"What're those for?" Jax asked.
"Our current job. Y'll find out when we get there."
"Colleen and Peter don't know you're taking us on a gun run, do they?"
"I shou' say not. Ya did say ya wouldn' tell, didn't ya?"
"At th' breakfast table."
"Oh. Yeah. Six years ago."
"Nah! More like five an' a quarter. Anyway, still counts, don' it? Y'll stick by yer word?"
"Well, that goes without saying, I should have thought."
"Good lad. Now, shall we carry on wi' th' tour?"
And they did. They saw the mess hall. It consisted of two small tables, each with four chairs; one replicator; and a small bar. The bar consisted of contributions from each of the five partners, from each of their worlds- and a few others. Next they visited sickbay, which was as high-tech as the limited space would allow. There Jax was introduced to Dr. Benton Zerdish, a Benzite.
"I met Ben at Merria," said Sean. "Impressed th' hell outta me. Graduated top o' his class, fully versed in th' physiology an' prescribed treatments of almos' all the major humanoid races, an' a good number o' non-humanoid ones, as well. Best bedside manner o' any doctor I a'er met. An' 'e'd jus' been fired for disregardin' orders. I hired him on th' spot. Or made him a partner, rather."
"And he's done nothing but regret it ever since," said Ben with the closest thing he could manage to a smirk.
Sean chuckled and said, "Too true, too true."
Finally, they visited engineering. Here Jax met the engineer, a Nausicaan named Tuk. He was the first Nausicaan Jax had ever met, and about the only one he'd ever like.
"Tuk is prob'ly th' only Nausicaan y'll a'er like," said Sean.
"Very probably true," said Tuk. "And even liking me is far from assured."
But Jax did get to quite like Tuk during the trip, as well as the other partners. He spent a lot of time in engineering, when he wasn't getting to know the others, including Sean and Christie.
Destiny Dog part 2