Castle Roland


by Ken Barber


Chapter 4

Published: 8 Apr 14

Struck By Lightning

I looked up from the files I had in my hand and the Image before me was breathtaking. This was the most beautiful man I have ever seen. Short close-cropped sandy brown hair. Intense deep brown eyes. Perfectly tanned skin. You could tell he was in great physical shape, not a muscle daddy but he defiantly worked out. His suit was impeccable, navy blue with a red and blue regimental striped tie. I realized he was staring at me as I was staring at him.

Carl broke up the awkward stares. "Mr. King can I get you something to drink, Coffee, Tea or Coke?"

He shook his head a little and smiled and I was lost again. His smile was radiant.

"Umm. Maybe Coffee, cream no sugar, thank you." He started walking towards me hesitantly.

I quickly regain my composure and came around the desk to shake his hand.

"Travis, may I call you Travis."

"Yes sir, Please do."

"I am Dale, Dale Ryan. Please have a seat." I guided him over to the two big leather couches on the other side of the room.

As we sat down, Carl brought us both a cup of coffee. "Mr. Ryan, here is your coffee and Mr. King, here is yours. Mr. Ryan, Clara and I are going to be in the outer office reviewing communication procedures if you need anything."

"Thank you Carl."

When Carl left, I turned and looked at Travis. I was still taken aback by him and sipped my coffee to collect my thoughts.

Travis interrupted me. "Mr. Ryan, I am very sorry but I feel totally out of sorts. I did not expect to meet a young man today. At the very least, I expected someone at least as old as the other gentlemen I have met at INS."

I laughed, "First Travis, please call me Dale. Second, we are very close in age, so I can understand your shock. I am part of the reason you are here today; as you already know, I have inherited the majority share of INS from my father and with it the office of its President. One of my biggest concerns is, I don't know the first thing about Naval Operations. I am desperately looking for someone who can help me through that aspect of the company. Now, I know INS has previously offered you a position as an Executive Officer on board one of our ships and you have declined. Would you be willing to share with me why you declined the offer?"

He smiled the smile that melted my heart and at that moment, I knew this was going to be an issue for me; I felt myself falling for this guy and I barely knew him. "Well Dale, it's not the money. They offered me a very lucrative compensation package and if I was not financially stable, I would have been a fool to reject it. I am sure you know from my file that I am gay."

"Yes I do, and let me tell you that I am as well."

He smiled an even bigger smile. "That's nice to hear. Is your personal assistant, Carl, also your significant other?"

"What, Carl, oh no! Although, sometimes I feel like he is my wife; we're not together."

"Oh, I am sorry, I just assumed that since he moved here from Seattle with you, it was more personal."

I chuckled. "I guess Carl filled you in a little on the way up."

"You could say that he is very talkative."

I laughed again. "Only around really cute guys." I blushed as soon as I said that. Did I really just call the guy I was trying to interview cute.

He was blushing as well. "Well, thank you Dale. The reason I haven't accepted a position with INS is that I swore off any sort of military service or association after what happened with the navy. But, seeing as INS is now headed by an openly gay cute young guy, I would be more willing to listen to an offer now."

I was blushing hard now. This beautiful man was hitting on me. "Well that was easy enough. All I did was smile, and now at least you will listen to our offer." I was getting bold and decided to go for it. "So, what would you being willing to do if I offered to take you out to dinner?"

He smile was beaming. "I would accept, but it would not be affiliated with any offer from INS."

"Okay, so it's obvious, we are intrigued by each other personally, and I would love to have dinner with you Thursday night if you're free?"

He looked me right in the eyes and said, "I am free, but even if I had plans, I would cancel them."

I was on cloud nine. "Okay, so let's get back to business. And I must say that our dinner date will not impact this discussion at all."

"That's what I wanted to hear Dale." He was very firm with his statement.

"I don't know the first Thing about Navel Operations and I have to take Command of a task force as Fleet Admiral. We are looking for our Flag Ship Captain and your file was pulled and recommended as someone that they thought I might be able to work with and could keep me out of trouble in the fleet operations area."

"Holy Crap Dale, your offering me a Flag Captain slot?"

"Yes, now to be fair, you were offered the XO spot and as we are getting desperate, if you had accepted it, you'd probably would have been moved into the slot anyway. The Ship is The INS Cyclone. A brand New Freedom Class Cruiser, modified for command. If you accept the position, you will be attending her christening Friday afternoon as her commander."

"I am intrigued, Dale. This could be interesting. How do you feel about us working closely together?"

I laughed, "The closer the better? Sorry, just teasing. I'm very good at separating my personal feelings and life from my professional ambitions and life. I don't see it as a problem."

There was a soft knock on the door and Clara poked her head in. "So sorry to interrupt, Mr. Ryan. But lunch is ready in the executive lounge." She closed the door without waiting for a response.

I stood and held out my hand to Travis. He took it, pulled me to him, and kissed me hard. I swear I almost fainted. It was the most amazing kiss I have ever experienced.

After we broke the kiss, I just stood there in shock.

Travis got nervous. "I am so sorry; I went too far didn't I. I am very sorry Mr. Ryan."

To stop him, I grabbed him and kissed him. It was even better the second time. I pulled back. "Let's go get some lunch Captain King."

He laughed and started to follow me out of the office. Clara and Carl were sitting there going over some paper work when we came out.

Carl stood up. "Is there anything you need Mr. Ryan?"

"Yes Carl there is, I need you to drop the Mr. Ryan Crap."

He laughed. "Okay Dale."

Travis and I walked across the hall to the lounge. All the guys, Cal, Mike and John where assembled and fixing plates of pasta that smelled amazing. There was also a women, I hadn't met yet standing there in a full INS officers uniform. John stood and took her by the elbow and steered her towards us.

"Dale, I would like to introduce Captain Jessica Warren. My Flag Captain."

I shook her hand, "It's a pleasure to meet you Captain Warren."

"The Pleasure is all mine. Mr. Ryan." She had a warm smile and a firm handshake. I could tell she was comfortable at handling herself in this boys club.

I started to introduce Travis when a light bulb went off. "Wait a second, John and Jessica Warren?"

John looked shocked. "Oh my god, we never told you. Yes, she is my wife. It didn't even dawn on me that we should let you know."

I laughed, "I don't have an issue with it. Now let me introduce Travis King. Travis, I believe you have met everyone else before. This is Captain Warren. Captain Warren this is Captain King, my Flag Captain."

Everyone stopped and looked up. Cal was the first to stand and offer is hand to Travis. "Welcome to INS, Travis we are lucky to have you."

Everyone greeted Travis and shook his hand. Then we sat down to eat.

Mike started the conversation, "Okay, so Travis the salary we were willing to offer you as the XO is a little low for a Flag Captain. We discussed it and thought that a salary of $125,000 a year to start would be fair. Do you think you can handle that?"

Travis nodded. "To be honest, I would have taken a little less. But, yes I would gladly accept the salary."

Mike Nodded. "Okay good, now you will have an office on the 11th floor and you will have access to all the amenities at the facility; including if you need or want it, housing."

John Interrupted. "Actually, I have been meaning to discuss the office situation. The layout 11th floor was originally designed to handle about ten senior officers. We now have eighteen ship commanders and two Marine company commanders. I have all ready put Colonel Time and Colonel Jackson into one office, and the Transport Captains and Patrol boat Captains have offices in the Fleet Ops Building down in the Yard. We either have to redesign the entire floor and remodel it or make some other adjustments. My first idea is that we have two empty offices on this floor and I thought the Flags could move into those."

Cal looked around, "Does anyone have an issue with that?" No one did.

Mike picked up where he left off. "Now that that is settled, as I was saying, you will have an office on the 12th floor and you will have access to all the amenities at the facility. Including, if you need or want it, housing."

"Oh no, I don't need it, I have a townhouse in town."

Cal jumped in, "We will have to have a tech crew go over and install any additional security and link you into our monitoring station; unless this a problem for you?"

"No, not at all. I have a home security system but it's pretty basic."

John spoke up, "Okay, so now that we have a CO for Cyclone, we have two more senior officer positions to fill on the ship. The Xo and the Fleet Medical Officer."

I looked up at that one, "Fleet Medical Officer?"

John nodded, "Yes, each ship has a contingent of Paramedics or as we call them Corpsmen. The larger ships have a Nurse and the Command ships have a Naval Doctor."

Travis smiled. "I think I can help with that. My very good friend, Lieutenant Commander Mathews, just got out of the Navy. Honorable discharge with commendation. She was hoping to start a family, but her husband left her. She is working at Norfolk General as an ER doc but is pretty unhappy. I think I could convince her to come on board Cyclone."

I nodded to Travis. "Sounds good to me. Can you set up a meeting with you and John?"

"Sure, I will give her a call this afternoon."

Jessica joined the conversation at that point. "As for the XO, we have been discussing promoting Lieutenant Stavi for a while now. He is a fantastic officer, former Israeli Navy Special Ops. He is on board the INS Monsoon now. It would be easier to fill an Operations Officer position, than an XO."

John nodded in agreement. "I think he would be a perfect fit for you. Travis would you be willing to interview him for the position?"

"It's my decision?" He seemed a little shocked.

"Of course, while we follow a lot of navy protocol, this isn't the US Navy. Our CO's, get final approval in most cases of their officers. We chose your Ops officer for you. Lieutenant Mathis, he is a little cocky, but brilliant with Cyclones weapons systems. Crew is a little different as there are too many to expect the CO to be that involved."

He smiled that radiant smile again. "Okay, yeah I would love to chat with him."

John Stood up and pulled a projector screen down and grabbed a remote. "So, now for the fun part. In two weeks, Cyclone will depart Virginia and sail full steam to Dubai to rendezvous with the Monsoon, and Hurricane; both are British Duke class frigates modified for our use. We are under contract with Crude Carriers Corp to escort four tankers all at once out of the Persian Gulf into the Gulf of Aiden and down the East Coast of Africa to Cape Town. We have never escorted four tankers at once. The client feels that by putting four tankers together, we should only have to use two escort ships and a squad of Marines on each ship. We have offered to include our Fleet Command Cruiser with an additional squad of Marines at no additional cost. Cal, Mike and I thought this might be a good mission for Cyclone to get her feet wet on. It would basically be a training mission." He pushed a button on the remote and a map of the East Coast of Africa appeared on the screen. "The tankers will run in a two by two block formation at about ten knots. The Frigates will escort fore and aft of the tanker block formation. Pirates are bound to be deterred by the size of the fleet alone. We know of no Pirate attacks on any grouping of more than two ships. It should be pretty straightforward, with little to know surprises. The International Anti-Piracy task forces in the area, are aware of the move and will be watching out for you as well. During the move through the Gulf of Aiden, the Brits will be conducting close to shore reconnaissance with some smaller patrol craft. During your trip, if the International Task Forces require assistance with pretty much anything, we are expected to assist as long as we don't put those tankers at risk. If you spot Pirate activity, report it to the task forces. We are not to engage any suspected Pirates ships unless we are fired upon, or they make aggressive moves toward the tankers or we see a Pirate raid in action and can engage without endangering the tankers. There are full mission specs in your email boxes. Travis, I can give you a printed copy as soon as we are done here since we don't have an email set up. Does anyone have any questions?"

I was the first to speak up. "This sounds great, but I am concerned that I have no fucking clue what I am doing out there."

Cal patted my arm. "We know and we are concerned, but we are sure that Travis and the two ship Captain's will not allow you to step on your dick. The two Captains are some of our best escort commanders we have. Captain Marsh and Captain Willibey. Marsh is former US Navy, and Willibey is former British Navy and has been serving on the Duke Class Frigates since he was a midshipmen. These guys have already been briefed on your status and understand that you are running the show, but if you do something really foolish, they will tell you; no questions asked. If you insist, they will go along long as it doesn't risk the tankers. They have your back."

I nodded. "Okay, so I will just say it out loud. This scares the shit out of me."

This time, Travis very gently placed his hand on my leg and squeezed my thigh in a very private but reassuring way before he spoke up. "It seems, this is a pretty cut and dry run. Basically, we are getting Cyclone and her crew used to each other. If anything goes south, we can get through it together, that is why you chose me as your Flag Captain."

John turned to the screen pushed a button and it went back up into the ceiling. "Dale, all we really want you to do is keep a short distance off the formation and watch how it works. We have put together an outstanding crew for the Cyclone and they will get you through any tough spots. You will have satellite communication with the command center and myself, Jessica and Cal, along with three of the most Senior Captains; will be running twelve-hour shifts to keep an eye on you. Mike will be in and out as needed. We are not throwing you to the wolves and while it is up to you, we had planned to put you through some pretty intensive training for the next four weeks, and then fly you to Dubai to catch up with the Cyclone. Travis and his crew will make the journey to Dubai in about thirteen days, if they run at as close to thirty-five knots as possible for the entire trip."

I stood up. "Well, I guess I have to get used to this sometime, why not start now."

Everyone nodded in agreement, and at that moment, Clara stuck her head in the door. "Sorry to interrupt folks but Dale, the tailor is here to take your measurements for your uniforms."

"Thanks Clara, oh wait, ask him if he can take Captain Kings as well so we can get him a dress uniform by Friday."

"Sure thing." She closed the door behind her.

I looked at everyone in the room. "So okay, if no one has anything else, we should go get ourselves fitted for this uniform."

John started gathering his notes, "Nope that should do it. Oh, just so you know, the commissioning ceremony for INS Cyclone is at 3:30pm. We typically give the entire staff the rest of the day off after a commissioning ceremony."

"That sounds good, as a matter of fact, why don't you all come on out to the house Friday evening for dinner and drinks. Kind of a get to know each other better, and celebrate at the same time. Bring your wives, or significant others as well." I figured this was my new family and I should get to know them better.

Mike laughed. "See he will be a fine CEO, he just ordered us to a mandatory fun event without even realizing it."

I blushed. "No, that's not how I meant it."

Cal was really laughing. "Dale, it's okay. None of us even thought about it, but Kevin always had a little dinner and cocktail party after a commissioning. Our wives are probably already talking about what to wear."

Mike thumped Cal on the back, "Oh no not talking about, Mary and Ellis are out shopping right now."

Cal shook his head in resignation. "Great. But Dale, you have only been here a day, are you sure you can host a party?"

"I am sure Carl can handle it." I laughed and added, "He will probably love playing hostess."

We left the lounge and went back to my office suite. I noticed Carl was missing and there was an older gentleman sitting on one of the sofas reading a newspaper.

Clara stood and opened the door to my office for us. "Carl is in his office interviewing a young man by the name of Rick for your household staff, and Mr. Salvarese will be happy to take both you and Captain King's measurements."

"Thank you Clara. Mr. Salvarese, would out here be better or in my office?"

"I assumed we would be in your office, so I am set up in there."

"Okay, let's get to this. And Clara, when we are done here, we need to get Travis an employee badge and all the HR stuff."

"Mark from H.R is already on his way up to take Mr. King through the HR ringer when you are done."

"Clara, you are on top of everything!"

She laughed. "It comes naturally."

I stepped into my office laughing.

"Okay Mr. Salvarese, who's first?"

"Mr. Ryan, please feel free to call me Tony. I would like to start with you. I have the folding mirrors and sizing platform set-up over here. If you could please undress to your undergarments."

I froze and looked at Travis; I was going to undress in front of him already.

He saw the look in my eyes and laughed. "Well, this should speed up the dating process."

Tony looked back and forth between us and smiled with a twinkle in his eye. "Ah, I see. Would you prefer to have the Captain wait outside Admiral?"

That was interesting; no one had addressed me as Admiral before. "No, its fine. We are adults, and Tony please call me Dale."

"Okay Dale, let's get started."

I undressed and stepped up onto the box. I realized I was wearing a pair of very purple boxer briefs and blushed even harder when I saw Travis in the mirror. He had a smirk that could have stopped my heart. Tony was very adept at his job and was finished measuring in no time. I stepped down from the box and turned around only to see Travis standing there in a pair of blue plaid boxers. Not the loose fitting boxers either, but boxers that hugged his beautiful frame. I couldn't help but look at his whole body. His legs looked like they were sculpted from marble. His t-shirt stuck to an amazingly firm chest. I stood and stared for what seemed like an eternity.

Just then, Carl opened his office door and stopped dead in his tracks. With him was a very attractive young man.

Carl started laughing. "Well it didn't take you two very long to end up in the same room undressed."

Travis started laughing and so did I. Poor Rick looked shocked.

I grabbed my pants and put them on. As Travis stepped on to the box and started with his measurements. Both Carl and Rick were mesmerized buy the most beautiful bubble butt they have ever seen, and actually, so was I.

Finally, I broke the spell. "Okay, so this must be Rick?"

"Yes, Sir Mr. Ryan. Please, let me say that I promise I won't disappoint you. I will make sure the house is in tip top shape at all times, and the cooking will blow you away; I promise."

"So, I take it Carl has offered you the position. Good, when do you start?"

Carl spoke up for him. "He is very anxious to get out of his Aunt and Uncles place, so he will move into his new quarters tonight and start work tomorrow. The shipment of the rest of the stuff from Seattle arrives tomorrow, so I thought we could use his help getting unpacked."

"Perfect, also the two of you have a big task ahead of you. Friday, we will be hosting a small dinner party for the folks here at the office. I will need you to find a caterer, make sure there is music and the bar is fully stocked. If we can find someone to serve drinks that would be great."

Rick perked up. "How many people, Mr. Ryan."

"Call me Dale please Rick. Cal and Ellis, Mike and Mary, John and Jessica, Clara and her husband; is Clara married?" Everyone just shrugged. "Well if she isn't, she can bring a date. Carl and his date, if he has one, or should I say if he can choose only one." Carl just glared at me." And me and Travis."

It did not go by anyone that I had just referred to Travis and me as a couple. Most importantly, Travis had a smile now that was at risk of causing me to faint.

Rick broke the awkward silence. "So about 12 people. I could handle appetizers, soup, salad, dinner and dessert easily. If you can find two servers and a bartender. Do you have a budget?"

"Not at all Rick, go to town and have fun; consider it your audition. Carl can you handle finding servers and a bartender? Whatever we need to pay, plus dinner and a generous tip if they do a great job."

Carl jotted some notes down in his Ipad. "We got it under control, Rick and I will have everything perfect for you."

"I am sure you will. Travis I assumed you would be free to attend, I apologize. If you have plans already, I will understand."

He just smiled. "As if I would be anywhere else."

Tony had finished his measurements and was packing up his equipment. "Dale, I will have your dress Uniforms ready by Friday morning and I understand the Captain is putting out to sea in two weeks and you will be following two weeks later. If it's ok with you, I will get his full uniform compliment finished first and then get yours done."

"That will be perfect Tony. Thank you so much" I shook his hand and thought I should tip him but didn't know what I should tip.

He saw my hesitation and whispered to me, "My gratuity should be handled by your assistant."

I smiled. "Thank you, this is all very new to me."

"I understand, Sir."

"Carl, will you show Tony out and make sure you take care of him."

I was sure Carl got the point. As Carl, Rick and Tony left, Carla came in with a man I met earlier down in the H.R Department. "Dale, this is Mark the Head of H.R and he is here to look after Travis."

"That's right, we met earlier downstairs. Thank you for taking care of this personally Mark."

"It's my pleasure Mr. Ryan. Mr. King if you would please follow me." They both left as I watched Travis leave the office.

I looked over to Clara to see her staring at me with a smirk. "Captain King is very dashing isn't he?"

"Yes he is Clara. Oh, by the way, I am having some people from the office over to the house Friday night for dinner and drinks. I would love it if you could attend, and of course, a date if you like. I don't even know if you're married Clara."

"My life partner and I have been together for twenty-two years, and I would love to come and have you meet her."

"That's fantastic. I would love to meet her. I invited Cal, Mike, and John and their wives. Is there anyone else I should invite that I am missing?"

She thought for a minute. "No, I would say for your first social gather, it's perfect that it's just your inner circle."

She turned and left the office leaving me thinking about my inner circle.

I turned on the laptop on my desk and opened the email. I had to go through the whole password setup process and then got to my in box. There were bunches of emails from department heads welcoming me. In addition, an email from John Schuller in Seattle to wish me luck. There was also an email from John Warren with the Escort mission operation spelled out. That was nerve wracking to think about.

A few minutes later my phone buzzed and Clara's voice stated, "Travis is headed in."

The door opened and the newest member of my inner circle walked in.

He Smiled. "So do you want to go see Cyclone?"

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