Castle Roland

Adventure Quest

by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 15

Posted: 10 Mar 16

Adventure Quest
Kyle Aarons

Lost But Not Found

As Robin left Colonel McKnight's office, with real corporal rank pins on his collar, he could have sworn his legs were shaking. The offer was beyond anything he could have dreamed of. To actually go out into the stars and explore a system no human eyes have seen, what could be more exciting?

The flip side was every bit as troubling as the offer was exciting, however. Hearing there was more than seventy kids from the last ISTAZ lost on Zong and knowing Colonel McKnight was counting on him and those in the new camp to find them, scared Robin more than a little. Even though he would have offered to assist in finding them without any bonus, he couldn't help but to feel the lives of those missing kids were partially in his hands now, since there was a pay off.

Of course, the colonel made it clear this was not the case. By just trying to help, Robin was showing what a caring person he was. The problem was Robin's mental abilities had once again kicked in. The guy was beyond worried, and it went well beyond the missing ISTAZ teams. Even though Robin didn't know why, the number forty-four kept popping up in his head, and he was certain this was a vitally important figure. He also caught glimpses in his mind of paperwork showing the partial teams had already been written off by the San-San CHZ government, since breaking away from the team leader was a direct violation of all the ISTAZ rules.

Lost in thought, Robin almost didn't notice Dillon. Suddenly, his mind registered the fact a member of Team Eight was in the new camp and he stopped. As he did so, he noticed the boy was wearing an Explorer Corps uniform with recruit rank, "Hey, where is the rest of your team?"

Dillon glanced over with a bit of a sad look. "I, ah…" the boy stammered.

Sara quickly moved up, also in uniform, only she had specialist rank on. "Dillon is with us now, Robin. Jessie threw in the towel when he blew afternoon testing and Curtis didn't want to be the only guy on our team. Commander Montgomery let us take Dillon in and we are glad to have him!"

Dillon gave Sara a weak, and clearly forced, smile. "Yeah, I'm with Team Eleven now. Team Eight moved Frank to the leadership spot after the teachers told Randy they weren't comfortable with him being a Leader, especially with a class one concussion. Frank then talked them into waiting out the latest star storm. They picked up Wanda and transferred over to a forest only zone since Mr. O'Mally told them they were dangerously close to failing too many mountain-oriented tests. The incoming star storm gave them a chance to switch camps, get a few more days of training, and test out since they do have most of the forest only stuff they need. Mr. Dietrich said he could shuttle them over and it would give them a shot at doing some kind of ISTAZ and Frank took the offer."

"Why'd they take Wanda?" Robin demanded to know.

Sara gave a half-hearted shrug, "Wanda dropped out of Team Fifteen since she was kind of in the same boat as most of Team Eight; and she really wanted to do ISTAZ. She did okay on forest, not so well in mountain survival. Besides, if she hadn't transferred over, Grace would have dropped out altogether. She was pretty mad about Randy getting bumped out of team leader spot, but her and Wanda got along pretty good so she's sticking it out."

"Why?" Robin mused, "If it came between Frank or Randy leading me, I'd take Frank any day!"

Dillon nodded, "Me too, but Grace and Vicky both have Randy's back on everything. I never did figure out why, and to be honest, I don't care."

"No need for you to care about those jerks," Meghan responded with a bit of venom in her voice as she moved up to join the conversation. The fact she wore a uniform with junior corporal rank on was not lost on Robin. Neither was the fact Curtis, who was next to her, wore senior private pins. "They don't deserve squat after the way they treated you! Besides, you are with Team Eleven now!"

Dillon managed a real grin, "Yeah, and happy about it."

"So are we," Curtis smiled and patted Dillon on the back. "You're already fitting in great with us!"

Robin let out a bit of a deep breath of relief. Not only would he not have to deal with Randy, the team had a real chance; since this time they had a new leader and would be given some extra training time. He still felt like he had failed the group. At least this way, they were not his problem, since they were not part of the camp. In addition, Dillon was safe and clearly happier. The only problem was, Robin couldn't help but worry about what would happen to Team Eight once they were on their own. Even though he didn't know any of them real well, he was sure Frank was not the leader type. Still, he was a way better choice than Randy, and Robin knew it.

Since there was nothing he could do about Team Eight's situation, he moved onto more important matters. "So, what have you all been told at this point?"

Meghan turned her hands palms up and shrugged. "Not much. We were actually told a lot depended on you. I know Colonel McKnight pulled me, along with all the other team leaders, in and asked us if we felt comfortable not only doing something different than normal ISTAZ, but also having you as our overall leader."

"And?" Robin asked with a pang of fear.

"And nothing!" Meghan responded. "You already are our leader Robin. Without you, most of our teams would be panicking right about now, wondering how we were going to pass enough tests to get a shot at ISTAZ. Instead, Dillon is my only team member without an outstanding, and the only reason he didn't get one today is because he fell this morning. All of Team Nineteen has at least one Outstanding and both Teams Fifteen and Seventeen are down to one member without one. Team Two still has two, but both Dena and Teri got Excellent marks on retests today, which means they would have gotten an Outstanding if it had been their first time through. I think we will all have one before testing ends! You may be the youngest team leader, but you are the best and we all know it."

Curtis quickly backed up Meghan's words, "Dude, this camp is yours and you have the lead team. None of those who are here questions it. Those corporal starbursts you are wearing only reinforce what those of in this camp already know. You are a leader and as I see it, in command whenever the adults are not around. We all got asked if we could follow your lead, and once we agreed we were made part of the Corps."

Dillon also joined in with a shy voice. "From what we are hearing, from those who are setting up the camp, this is all because of you. The Corps is building an entire training camp from the ground up for you! If you think anyone around here is going to question what you decide… well, it just ain't going to happen. Besides, you are ranking member and we all had to formally take an oath to the Corps. You are in command, Corporal."

For Robin, the words coming from the older kids were both comforting and scary. The others were deferring to him and his rank which meant his decisions were not going to be argued, but it also meant those lost out in the wilds of Zong were squarely in his hands. From here on, his decisions could be the difference between life and death of over seventy kids from the SanSan CHZ. Kids who didn't even know him were now, unknowingly, looking to him to rescue them.

Sara frowned as she saw some color draining from Robin's face, "You okay?"

"Yeah…" Robin exhaled nervously, "Um, how close are we to having the camp ready and am I the last arrival?"

"They finished the mess hall about half an hour ago while you were meeting with the Colonel and everyone else is here, other than Oliver." Meghan answered. "There are still some generators and electronics going in, but camp is set."

Before Robin could ask, Sara spoke up, "Mr. Montgomery had Oliver take him back up in a flyer for some extra practice and to get his hand looked at by doctors in the space station."

Robin's eyes went wide, "What happened to Oliver?"

"He broke a finger when he saved my life this morning," Dillon looked down with a face full of guilt.

"He'll be fine, though," Meghan assured Robin. "Commander Montgomery wanted to get a non-electrostatic cast put on, to prevent the possibility of the star storm messing with the glove-cast circuitry and figured it would be a good chance to get Oliver some space time. They will be back by lights out."

Robin nodded his understanding, but still punched up Oliver's comp pad on his own. "Hey, heard you hurt your hand."

"Nothing major, Robin, just a broken finger," Oliver's voice came back, "but can't talk now. I am getting a crash course on space station docking."

"Bad choice of words!" Robin giggled. "The last thing I want to hear is crash and space station docking in the same sentence!"

This got some laughter out of both Jasper and Oliver, not to mention those around Robin.

Still snickering, Robin spoke again. "Mr. Montgomery, since I was told this was your idea, I know you know the plan. I'm sure you already guessed as much, but I am going to take Colonel McKnight up on his offer. Can you brief Oliver, since I want to hold a meeting down here and get things set?"

"You got it Corporal."

"Thanks, Commander," Robin couldn't help himself as he grinned at those around him, "and don't let Oliver scratch the paint like Fairfax did on his first docking. Painting up in space sucks and he'd have to do it alone with a bad hand."

"Huh?" Everyone around Robin heard Oliver's voice suddenly shout out.

"You'll be fine, Oliver," Robin laughed. "Have fun!" He then signed off, cutting off any response.

"Oh, that was mean!" Sara snickered.

Robin eyes danced with merriment. "At least this way he can't say he wasn't warned. Part of pilot training is being a member of the repair crew whenever you cause damage beyond normal wear and tear. It took us almost two hours to paint the side of the flyer in space suits and zero-G after Fairfax put a scrape all the way down the side of the flyer on his first docking attempt. It was not much fun."

"Sounds fun to me," Dillon interjected. "I'd love to spend some time in zero gravity!"

"Hopefully, we'll all get a chance before we see Earth again," Robin smiled.

Curtis eyed Robin carefully. "Really?"

"Yeah, but we got lots to do if it's going to happen," Robin nodded as he turned his attention to the Team Eleven leader. "Meghan, can you get everyone together and have them gather in the mess hall?"

"Sure," the girl answered quickly. "I know we are all wondering what this is all about, especially since they had us all do recordings, telling parents we would be staying on Adventure Quest long term as some sort of bonus, as well as telling them we are now part of the Corps and the academy as a whole. I think Jesse would have stuck it out, but once he heard we were going to stay longer he wanted out."

"I still think he was a bit homesick," Curtis stated sadly. "Which is too bad, cause, I really liked him and he loved being here. He just missed his mom and brother too much to stay gone more than three months and even that was going to be real hard on him."

Robin swallowed hard, "Probably best he didn't stick then."

"So, we really aren't going home after our three months?" Dillon asked with a degree of excitement none of the others had heard out of the youngster yet.

"We may not even be off Zong by then," Robin informed the small group with a shrug. "One thing we all need to make sure of is those with us are comfortable not going home for a while, a long while. I need to stow my gear. I'll meet you all at the mess hall in like fifteen minutes or so."

As Robin adjusted his pack and moved toward his team's building, Curtis glanced over to Sara and spoke with a shake of excitement in his voice, "Um, am I missing something?"

"I think we all are," Sara spoke slowly, "but, by judging on your tone, you picked up something I missed."

Dillon nodded, "Yeah… I think I heard the same thing." He chewed on his lip, "Um, unless I just misunderstood, there is a chance we will be off of Zong in three months, but not going home…"

Meghan felt a tingle shoot down her spine as the meaning of Robin's words hit her, "Okay, so where in the hell are we going?"

Sara let out a whistle. "Let's get everyone together! I can't wait to hear this!"

Robin entered the building and noted it was quite a bit nicer than the generic dorm style buildings back at the training camp. Each member of his team had a real bed, a footlocker, a locker, and there was even an entertainment system with a rack of games and movies on mem-sticks. Even as he silently watched Ajax, Gavin and Fairfax playing some shooting game, Robin also noted there were power interrupters coming out of the back of all the electronics to prevent any damage during star storms.

In addition, the small place card racks where the names of those attending ISTAZ training were normally put were gone. Instead, his name and rank were etched into the footlocker, wall locker, and bed. Inside the open wall locker he saw real Explorer Corps uniforms waiting for him, and it even included a pair of red and black dress uniforms. He couldn't help but smile at the fact the Colonel and Mr. Montgomery had indeed guessed he would take them up on the offer. Still, he couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if he had said no.

Before his mind could go further down the 'what if' road, Gavin glanced up from the game station revealing junior corporal rank on his brand new uniform. "Robin! We all got to see your water landing! It is already on its way to Earth to be shown as a new commercial for the Corps. You're going to be famous; how cool can you get!"

Fairfax and Ajax also turned away from the game, nodding in agreement. Both of them wore Explorer Corp uniforms with senior private rank pins on their collars.

Robin tossed his gear on his bed with an embarrassed grin. "Yeah, I can assure you, the first vid we get from our parents will not be saying how cool it is to see me skipping a Lander over the water. I sure hope they give our folks some warning."

Gavin chuckled, "You better shoot them off a vid first, bro. I do not want to deal with having to explain not going home on time, but also what you are doing all over the vids doing a water landing. One is already pushing it. So what is the deal anyway?"

"I'll tell everyone in the mess hall. I'm holding a meeting in like fifteen minutes." Robin glanced over the rank pins and over to Oliver's closed locker, noting it had his rank listed as specialist. "So how did this whole rank thing happen? So far, all the kids I have seen have real Explorer Corps ranks."

"Everyone at the camp is now getting paid and is in the Corps!" Fairfax stated with exuberance. "Those who have not gotten an Outstanding mark yet, are in as a recruit with an automatic bump to private if they get one. Everyone else is at least a private. I'm not sure how and why the upgrades on ranks were handed out, but whatever! The important thing is we are a team and Ajax and I never have to see the orphanage in Chi-Troit ever again!"

"Amen!" Ajax added. "I do want to go back though…"

"What?" Fairfax shouted.

"Yeah…" Ajax grinned fiendishly, "Wearing this uniform and flashing some of the credits I'm now getting paid."

Gavin laughed, "I'd love to go with you just to see the faces of those who messed with you!"

"I'd prefer to see you kick the teeth out of a few of them the way you did to Randy," Fairfax responded with a snort.

"Somehow, I don't think, the Corps would allow it," Robin grinned, "but it sure would be nice to go as a team and show them the new and much improved pecking order."

"Man, that sounds fun," Ajax admitted, then turned his attention to Robin. "So, can't we get a hint as to what all this is about?"

Robin let out a long breath. "They want us to go into the areas where they sent ISTAZ teams from SanSan CHZ and find them."

"They lost a whole team?" Gavin asked with a bit of shock.

"I wish..." Robin shook his head. "No, a star storm way bigger than the one we have heading this way now, hit Zong about six months ago. They lost all the ISTAZ teams. Corps rescue teams found most, but there are still several full and partial teams out there. We need to go out and find them."

Fairfax could have sworn his blood just went ice cold on him. "Six months with no support? Why don't they just go to a bunker and call for help?"

"I'm not totally sure. There are a couple of kids from SanSan Near Ocean Seven who will be able to answer questions, but from what I hear, they are badly shook up and just getting out of medical after almost two months. Colonel McKnight called for them to be brought down from the space station as soon as I agreed to lead the efforts."

Ajax chewed on his lip, "Any chance you can use your future vision thing to help find them?"

"Maybe…" Robin shrugged. "The problem I have, is I don't see a way to connect with them. We can certainly try a few times and if we can find a camp maybe I can go from there too. Is the mind talking still working?"

Gavin gave a shrug with a single shoulder, "We can, but it is not as strong. We kind of hoped you'd give us another boost when Oliver gets back."

"Be a good time to try to find one of the other teams," Ajax added, clearly wanting to feel the tingle in his brain again.

"Sounds like a plan," Robin readily agreed as he changed into a uniform with a short sleeved shirt, "But Mrs. Anderson is going to give us a special class tonight, so we'll have to do it the second Oliver gets back."

"Special class?" Fairfax's voice told the other three he was not thrilled by the announcement.

"Yeah, and you will love it!" Robin grinned, then snickered, as he saw the look of total skepticism cross Fairfax's face. "Dude, seriously, this is something you and Oliver will freaking love. Trust me."

"Okay then," Fairfax stood and set the game controller down. "If this is some kind of trick…"

Gavin rolled his eyes, "If it's something both you and Oliver will be into, it's got to be about rocks or edible plants, which means I'm going to be bored to tears."

"I don't think so…" Robin let his voice hang, showing he fully expected Gavin to be wrong.

"And you aren't going to tell us more, are you?" Ajax grumbled.

"Nope," Robin shot the other three a grin and headed to the door. "Some things are worth waiting for."

Ajax closed his eyes and sent a thought to the other two. 'If this is some sort of work detail, I am going to shove him in the pond outside of camp.'

A strong, 'I heard that!' pierced the minds of all three kids, causing them to laugh as they exited.

This got some strange looks from members of Team Seventeen as they made their way past Robin's building toward the mess hall. Nothing was said, however.

Robin stood at the front of the room and chatted with Mrs. Anderson while other others trickled in. It felt kind of weird to be seen by adults as a leader, but there was no question he was basically seen as a member of the Corps by the adults. The very fact Mrs. Anderson was leaving the whole meeting up to Robin told him just how much respect he had earned from those who he still saw as his teachers.

As the last few came in and sat down Robin let out an audible breath, while using his note-puter to pull up a map of Zong. Several dots appeared in the northern hemisphere.

Talking between the assembled kids dropped off quickly as Robin stood and moved up to stand next to the three dimensional display. "First off, thanks for placing enough trust in me to join me here."

Jason spoke up, "Man, most of us wouldn't be ISTAZ ready without you and your team. We owe you, not the other way around!"

This got a round of mummers of agreement and even some applause.

"As much as I want to say thanks for the compliment, you all may have some second thoughts by the time I am done. By coming here, you agreed to become part of something different."

"So we are giving up ISTAZ?" Lynn asked.

"No," Robin shook his head. "We are still going out, but not where we expected; nor are we going out to simply survive." Robin pointed to the map. "One hundred and sixty-seven days ago this was the known deployment of all Adventure Quest camps and ISTAZ teams on Zong. I have all the Advanced ISTAZ teams in orange and the first year ISTAZ teams in red. Green blobs are major camps. The yellow globs are smaller camps. At the time, the Western US and a few thousand kids from the Eastern Asia Consortium were enjoying their time here."

Robin tapped his note-puter and pulled up another image of Zong. This time there were far fewer dots and almost no ISTAZ dots. "Two hours later, the biggest star storm ever recorded, anywhere, slammed into Zong. This was the readings from one hundred and sixty-four days ago."

The few kids who were talking, stopped, as they looked at the two displays.

Robin gave everyone a few seconds before he started speaking again. "The storm blew out over ninety percent of the emergency beacons planetwide, while taking out the holographic instructors, food stations, power, and water to most of the camps. The Explorer Corps went into full rescue mode and several US CHZ starships were brought in, but in order to get to most of the kids, the decision was made to go after the ISTAZ teams last."

Robin put up a third display. This one showed dots of red, orange, and grey. There were two orange dots, seven red, and nine grey ones. Above each dot was a team description and number. "This was as of fifty-four days ago, and it has not changed. Grey dots are partial teams that got separated or split up; parts of those teams have been recovered. Those dots are where the team leaders were found, so the others could be anywhere. Unfortunately, the same could be said of the other dots, because those are last known positions and they have had over a hundred and sixty days of walking between those dots and now."

Robin dropped the first two displays and moved up to the last one. "Guys, it's basically late September where we are and we are pretty close to the same latitude as these remaining teams. They have been out for one hundred and ninety-eight days, one hundred and sixty-seven of them without any support. Making matters worse, all weather sats over the ISTAZ areas were pulled because there was damage to several weather satellites over the camps. This means they have had to deal with unregulated weather, and it looks like they are going to have to do so again, since all weather sats have already shut down in preparation for the latest star storm.

"To make this nice and short, I'll tell you this… I have agreed to get an extra week and a half of training while we let this latest star storm pass and then go out there and try to find them. We will need some classes in grassland, near ocean, jungle, and straight forest areas."

Robin glanced around the room, "The other thing we will all have to get is winter training; since we are only weeks away from snow falling in some of these areas and the mountain areas have already had their first dustings. This means some of the edible plants will not be there for us."

Meghan spoke up, "Which means they are going to be running out of one of their major food sources too! I'm in and I'll volunteer my team as the second Advanced training team!"

The same sentiment quickly rolled across the whole room.

Robin looked upward in some relief, "Thanks, but the next part is where we really come in. Colonel McKnight and Commander Montgomery, along with our other instructors, think we need to be the one to go in and try to find them, because we can think like them. We have all learned how to look beyond what we are being taught, which is why we have so many Outstanding grades. They need us to do the same thing, only this time we need to try to use this same kind of imagination to guess what these teams did and are continuing to do. In simple terms, we need to try to think the same way they are.

"At the same time we have to remember our training so we stay safe."

Jeff raised his hand.

Robin pointed to him, "Question?"

"Um, well, yeah. I mean, as long as my team is in so am I. But, are we like staying out there until we find them or something?"

"The Corps is giving us ninety days, then we re-evaluate. If a team is found, we will get them out and relocate to another area. If we are still having success, we will stay longer. Why?"

"Just wondering why we had to record a message about not coming home on schedule. My folks are going to freak out a bit."

"So are mine," Robin assured Jeff, along with others who were nodding their heads in agreement. "Once we're done, there is something else which will keep us away for quite a bit longer. But I need to see who doesn't want to do this. It isn't what we all signed up for and it's a lot more dangerous."

When no one moved, Colonel McKnight came up from behind Robin and spoke, "Robin is absolutely correct and even though the instructors have all talked to you and you agreed to be here, there is no shame in backing out. We will form an ISTAZ team or teams out of any who want to back out and send you to a zone after your final tests if you want."

Again no one moved. Finally, Steve spoke up, "I think I speak for everyone in Team Nineteen when I say we are in, and even if my team doesn't get to go after one of the Advanced teams, I think it would be a good idea for all of us to get the Advanced training. We are going to need everything we can get once we get out there."

"Same goes for Team Fifteen!" Tasha spoke up, from the other side of the room. "We're with Robin."

Ellen and Patrick, the two other team leaders, quickly followed suit.

Colonel McKnight looked around once more then nodded. "I will get a few more instructors here and get the training ready." He then smiled. "I think I will leave the reward for you all agreeing to try this in the Corporal's able hands." He patted Robin on the shoulder and exited the back of the mess hall.

"Reward?" Sara asked as she looked down at her specialist rank pins. "I thought being allowed to be a full paid member of the Corps was the reward!"

"Only part of it," Robin managed a grin. "The other part is an optional trip."

"To where?" Sean demanded to know.

"Not real sure," Robin snickered nervously. "If we can find enough of those missing, I think the number is forty-four, then we get to be part of a real explorer crew and we get to pick what two unexplored systems within wormhole range of Zong we want to check out. Commander Montgomery, and most of our other instructors, will command the ship and show us everything we need to know and start us on our academy classes. We may not be back on Earth for over a year, and if it takes that long, we get to have our next ISTAZ here before we go back."

For several seconds every kid in the hall held their breaths. One by one, each let out a gasp and sucked in a new breath.

Robin nodded. "In addition, I got permission for all of us to stay together, even after the academy, and become part of a starship crew as a group. If we…." Robin shook his head and crossed his arms in front of himself a few times. "Once we find those missing, we will start training to become the core of an Explorer Starship. Even better, when we get to the academy, all of us will have pilot wings, real rank, and a System Exploration Patch with a cluster. The only problem will be, you have to agree to me staying in command of you all. Colonel McKnight wouldn't agree to it otherwise. I tried."

"You already are in charge of us, Robin," Troy managed to point out, while shaking with excitement. "Let's get to training so we can go find the missing teams."

Robin managed a smile. "Today we take it easy and adjust to the new time zone. As long as everyone is still with me, starting tomorrow, I want to have a couple hours of study each night on the new classes and tests, with at least one more hour spent on ideas of what we should all look for once we get out there. Try to put yourself in their situation, think about what you would do, where you would go, and what you would all make priorities if you suddenly were stranded while out on ISTAZ.

"There is a good chance we are going to lose most electronics over the next couple of days, so it will be a good time to think it over. We will all meet back here in an hour to hear from a couple of those rescued. They will be able to tell us what happened and what they did before finally getting spotted fifty-four days ago. Also, after dinner and before lights out, Mrs. Anderson is offering a special fun class. I highly recommend you all attended, and those with laser rifles, bring them, since we are going to be outside the perimeter and will need some guards."

Robin stood back and waited until the mess hall emptied. He was somewhat surprised no one took Colonel McKnight's offer to move them to a normal ISTAZ team. He guessed part of it was many of the others realized if the situation was reversed, they would hope for someone to come find them. Others were probably too afraid or embarrassed to say they wanted out, though, and that bothered Robin.

Robin took a chair, spun it around and sat backwards on it. He stared at his note-puter for a few minutes before hitting the audio and video record button. "Mom, Dad… I guess by now you have seen or have at least heard of the Explorer vid with me behind the controls. Don't freak out about it, I have some awesome instructors here and they would not have let me do it had they not been certain I could."

Robin smiled and brushed some of his red hair out, away from his eyes before he continued. "Gavin and I have made some friends here as well, and this world is the most amazing place ever. Because we have done so well, we were asked to do a special project and… well I don't think I'll be home when you expect me. Also…" Robin giggled and pulled at his collar, "I am a real Explorer now. This isn't cadet rank, it's the real thing…. I even got enough pull to get you moved over so you and Gavin's parents can be neighbors in a nice building."

He took a deep breath and wiped away a couple of tears, "I know you probably don't want to hear this, but I am going to go to the academy when this is over, so I don't know when I will get to see you again. Gavin is going to be by my side, as are three of the best guys I have ever met. I'll make a vid of all of us so they can introduce themselves before I leave for ISTAZ, but Oliver is from Mars and Fairfax and Ajax are both from Chi-Troit.

"I know it before I say it that it isn't possible… me saying don't worry is about as stupid and pointless as it gets, but I am going to say it anyway. Don't worry. I can't ever imagine being this happy, this free. If you could just see this place… see the stars at night, smell the non-metallic air, and feel rain and snow hitting your face with no smell or pollution… It's all here and I know it will hurt to hear this, but this is my greatest dream."

Robin choked back a few tears and wiped his eyes with the corner of his sleeve. "My only wish would be to have you here with me. I will be back on Earth and will see you, but when I do, don't expect me to stay. Don't ask me to stay. This is where I belong. I'm an Explorer at heart and the stars, not Earth, is the home I want. Please say goodbye to my soccer team and scout troop. I'm going to miss them too. I'll send vids when I am able. Love you all…" Robin cut off the recording before he started to cry.

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