Voyagers: SS Robert Heinlein

Chapter Five-Coming Together

Outside of the medical officers, the senior staff of the Heinlein has been picked
The Robinson boys were enjoying a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and bacon, cooked up by Alicia. The five of them dug right in and scarfed their breakfast.
“What did you boys do overnight to build up such an appetite for breakfast?” Alicia grinned.
“Nothing but sleep, mom. It was what we did between dinner and sleep that got us hungry,” Kyle said innocently. Alicia gave Kyle a skeptical look, but using the kind of diplomacy a mother knows how to conjure up, she managed to maintain her silence.
“Don’t believe a word they say,” Greg Robinson commanded as he came down the stairs.
“Dad, what are you getting at?” Ronnie asked.
“What I’m getting at is that you boys are apparently wolfing down that breakfast because you’re teenagers, which makes you believers in the teenage credo that says one of the top goals of teendom is to eat their parents out of house and home.”
“Guilty as charged,” Danny said before shoving a forkful of pancake into his mouth.
Ronnie felt his communicator vibrate and pulled it out of his pocket. He saw that he had a message from Lin Chang, the Chief Engineer of the Sally Ride, whom he had met at the spaceport on Monday. She left a message for him to call her. Ronnie figured she wanted to have the meeting she had proposed when they met.
Not me!” Koji shouted out. “Duskin and me are not teenagers, Admiral Naflopsila (grandfather)!”
“Agreed. But how many pancakes did you each eat for breakfast so far?”
Koji looked over to Duskin who held up two fingers. “Five. But they were little ones.”
Kyle and Danny almost spit their pancakes out as they fought their onrushing laughter. They knew Greg was playing Koji. Kyle and Danny could see that Koji was giving back as much as he was getting. Ronnie grinned but had been worked up about the message and missed most of the chatter between Greg and Koji.
“Opsola Kyle, Duskin and me are going with you to the headquarters, right?” Koji asked.
“That’s correct. You’re going to meet Lieutenant Wilson’s twin brothers and welcome them to the Heinlein.”
“How can we welcome them to the Heinlein if we’re not on the Heinlein?”
“I didn’t say that right. You’re going to welcome them to the Heinlein family.”
“I like that, don’t you Duskin?”
“I like getting new friends,” Duskin grinned.
“When do we get to go into space and be on the Heinlein?” Koji asked.
“I was assured by Commodore Tietokone that he would have the final schedule for us by noon,” Kyle responded.
“That’s assuming Commander Marshall doesn’t change it again,” Greg noted. The Admiral in command of the Explorer Program was tired of the constant schedule changes the shakedown operations director kept making. He knew that during the early phase of shakedown cruises it was difficult to maintain a long-term schedule without changes. But the shakedown was close to finished and the time had arrived to schedule the process of the Heinlein’s regular crew taking over operation of the ship. That schedule had to be stable because of the logistics involved.
“Hal assured me it would probably be changed again, since that’s how it was with the Earhart and the Sally Ride,” Kyle told his father.
“But those ships had a different shakedown crew,” Ronnie pointed out.
“Good point, son,” Greg grinned. He knew that Ronnie liked being called “son” by him after going for a long stretch without a father.
Breakfast soon ended and the three oldest boys each carried a clean plate to the kitchen. Koji and Duskin still had pieces of pancake and syrup on their plate. But as soon as they entered the kitchen they put their plates in front of their face and licked off the remaining scraps before putting them in the dishwasher.
“You know mom wouldn’t be happy with what you’re doing,” Danny told them.
“Yes, she would, because we cleaned our plates just like she likes it. She would be mad if we did it at the table, but not if we do it in the kitchen,” Koji said.
“My isthasy (brother) is right,” Duskin said. “I did it too and my plate is the cleanest. Right Koji?”
“Totally right isthasy Duskin,” Koji said as he ruffled his brother’s unruly hair.
The boys washed up and were ready when the Space Fleet van stopped in front of the house on time at 0700. It picked up Greg and his gaggle of boys. The driver was amused by the three boys in uniform and the two younger ones followed by the Admiral. He was also amazed at how quiet they all were on the ride to Space Fleet Headquarters. What he didn’t know was Kyle initiated a code red on Koji and Duskin, which meant they had to ride with their mouths shut or face the wrath of their Captain Opsola.
Kyle sat at Hal’s desk and watched Koji and Duskin busily at work on whatever assignments their instructor at the Academy Prep School had given them. His sons were deep in concentration as they flipped through their books and typed information into their tablets. Hal was in a meeting with Admiral Robinson, Kyle’s father, and Admiral Crusoe, where they would be working on the schedule of the final two and a half weeks of the Heinlein shakedown with Commodore Kochanski, the commander of the Heinlein trials. 
When Kyle asked his father why he wasn’t asked to sit in on the meeting he was told that this was one of the instances where a ship’s Captain had to accept the decisions of the high command. “But Hal, Robert, and I will do everything in our power to get the requests you gave me into the final schedule. In the end, unless there is good reason to do otherwise, the wishes of Admirals are usually granted. In this case, two admirals working together with a commodore backing them up should help get most of your wishes granted.” Kyle had every reason to believe that to be true.
He looked over his itinerary for the day. It was going to be a full day, the kind of day that sometimes made him doubt his eagerness to be a Captain. But after taking a deep breath he would remember that one of the reasons he wanted to command a starship was because he would be busy performing many different tasks and keeping himself busy. As his father had told him during one of their recent chats, “Son, you’re going to have negative moments that will eat you up, but you will also have the wonderful experience of having one of the greatest jobs in the galaxy—and at the ripe young age of thirteen to boot.” As usual, he found his father to be correct in his analysis.
Kyle’s first task was to meet with Logan Wilson, his Chief Science Officer. Logan would have his twin brothers with him. Kyle was looking forward to meeting the two young boys and introducing them to Koji and Duskin. He knew his two sons were beyond excited to make friends with two boys who would be travel companions on the Heinlein.
“They’ve got to be getting close, so get up off the floor so you can greet them,” Kyle told his sons. Koji and Duskin got up off the floor and picked up their materials, placing them on Hal’s desk. “Good job picking your stuff up.”
“Don’t worry, opsola, we won’t leave this on Commodore Tietokone’s desk for long,” Duskin said in his sweet voice.
Duskin and Koji turned to face the door when they heard sounds outside. Logan opened the door and signaled Mark and Matthew to enter the room ahead of him. When Duskin and Koji saw the two blond nine-year-old twins enter the office they almost whooped with joy. Both of them felt the twins were the cutest boys they’d seen since leaving the Sooloo, and they’d seen quite a few boys since then. They stepped up to the twins and held out their arms for hugs, which they gladly accepted. It was obvious that the boys had hit it off instantly.
Logan’s task for the morning was supervising the boys. He had brought games for them to play. Koji, Duskin, and the twins also had their tablets, which were replete with games. Logan and Kyle were certain the boys would be keeping themselves amused while Logan put together an agenda for his first meeting with the crew members who would be working with him in Science.
After lunch Logan would be accompanying the boys in a Space Fleet van to the Academy where Mark and Matthew would be introduced to Ali Bakabazi and attend his afternoon class with Koji and Duskin as well as Tei and Akage, who were also in Ali’s class and would be attending school regularly on the Heinlein.
Ali, who had been in charge of education on the Sooloo, would now perform the same function on the Heinlein. He and the boys would then meet up with Alicia, who would drive him and the horde to the Robinson residence for some swimming.
Kyle’s upcoming task was to meet Commander Riku Tatsu, whom Commodore Hal Tietokone, Admiral Robert Crusoe, and Admiral Greg Robinson had named the Heinlein’s Chief Medical Officer.  Space Fleet policy called for the Chief Medical Officer of the Explorer ships to be chosen by the Explorer Program’s high command dependent on the approval of the ship’s captain. After discussing the choice with Hal, Robert, and in particular with his father Greg, Kyle couldn’t think of any reason why he would not want to approve of Dr. Tatsu. However, he knew he had to follow protocol and interview the doctor before giving his approval.
Riku Tatsu was fifteen and was born in Sapporo, Japan. He grew up in San Francisco, however. He had served as an intern and resident at William Gorgas Hospital in Las Vegas, which was the major Space Fleet Hospital, before becoming Chief Medical Officer of the Galileo. As was the case with all of the Explorer Class Chief Medical officers, Riku was a genius whose IQ was off the charts. While anyone in the Explorer program, including crewmen, was on the far upper end of the IQ scale, most of the senior officers were in the genius class. But most of their numbers paled when compared to Chief Medical officers.
When Riku had seen that the Chief Medical Officer position on the Heinlein came open, he knew he needed a change. He thought for sure that Captain Morgan would find a way to block his departure. Riku did not think much of the way Morgan ran his ship. He felt the captain didn’t have the intellect to properly handle the position of Captain. He immediately applied for the position on the new starship. The process ended up not being an easy one, however.
When Captain Cody Morgan learned of Riku’s application, he refused to release him to interview for the position, which was something he could do with good reason. He told Hal that he did not want to lose his Chief Medical Officer simply because he wanted to change ships.
When Hal contacted Morgan and asked him what his reason for blocking the application was, the Captain gave a quick, concise answer. “If there was a promotion involved, I might consent to let him go, but since this is a lateral move, I choose to keep him as a valued member of my crew.”
An hour later he was contacted by Admiral Greg Robinson, the Commanding Officer of the Explorer Program. “There is a promotion involved in the transfer,” Greg told Morgan. “We want the Chief Medical Officer on the Heinlein to be a full Commander, which would involve a promotion for Lieutenant Commander Tatsu.”
Morgan said he would promote Riku himself in order to keep his doctor on the ship. “Besides, what would I do for a doctor?”
“There are two residents at Gorgas Hospital who are ready to serve on a starship. I’m sure either one would fill the position nicely for you.”
“Then why not just assign one to the new ship?”
“Because we would like to have an experienced Chief Medical Officer serving on the Heinlein to help facilitate a smooth launching of the medical facility.”
“You seem to be leaving me with no choice in this matter,” Morgan groused.
“I’ve gathered from some of your evaluations you don’t care much for Doctor Tatsu.”
“He can be arrogant and hard to get along with, but he is an excellent doctor who runs a top-notch sick bay.” For personal reasons Cody Morgan wouldn’t have minded seeing his Chief Medical Officer transfer from his ship since he didn’t like the guy. Professionally, Morgan knew that Riku did outstanding work, was respected by the crew, and would be difficult to replace.
“Okay, I’ll allow him to interview with you. But if you decide to transfer him to the new ship, you can facilitate the transfer yourself.”
“Deal,” Greg said, knowing that supplying transportation to Earth was Captain Morgan’s responsibility. But he didn’t want to get into a pissing match with the haughty teenage captain. Greg knew that Dr. Riku Tatsu was going to be the best fit for the Heinlein even though he had yet to interview the candidate. He could hardly wait to get the interview process done with.
After going through the rigorous interview process, he was pleased when Admiral Robinson called him and congratulated him on being named the first Chief Medical Officer on the Robert Heinlein contingent on the approval of the ship’s captain.
As soon as Kyle had learned of the decision, he texted Riku, and set up a video conference with him. It was now time for Kyle to interview the candidate.
“I am most pleased to meet you Captain Robinson,” Riku said. While Riku had seen a couple of pictures of Kyle, he was still surprised how young the captain looked, especially considering he was thirteen. He looked, and sounded, much younger. And yet, Riku took an immediate liking to him.
“The pleasure is mine. And when I meet with my senior staff, I am fine with an informal atmosphere,” Kyle said. “Feel free to call me Kyle.”
“And I am Riku,” the doctor grinned. “I like how you operate. Your informality is very much how it was in the base hospital. Formality has its place, but it can also be out of place. I believe being formal for every occasion raises tension levels because people become afraid to make mistakes. This is my opinion, of course.” Kyle noted that Riku was being diplomatic by not mentioning his previous assignment.
The interview became an informal conversation, which consisted mostly of the two getting to know each other better. Kyle ended the chat by telling Riku he thought the Explorer Program high command had made an outstanding choice and he would be the first Chief Medical Officer on the Heinlein.
“Welcome to the Robert Heinlein, Doctor Tatsu,” Kyle grinned. “And we now need to discuss getting an Assistant Chief Medical Officer. And yes, I know that for the most part that person has been a head nurse. And since you’ve travelled this route before, you know that the choice is yours, subject to my approval.”
“I did not have that choice when we staffed the Galileo. My head nurse was chosen solely by Captain Morgan,” Riku said matter-of-factly. “I did not know until a couple of months later that I had the privilege of picking my chief assistant. Fortunately, I liked Lieutenant Bergman very much. He was very personable and outstanding at his job.”
Being a new captain as well as the youngest captain in the fleet, Kyle elected not to badmouth a fellow captain, especially one who had commanded his ship since the beginning of the Explorer Program. As much as he disagreed with what Captain Morgan had done, it was not a subject he wanted to discuss with his new doctor; at least not until he knew him much better. Kyle did plan on discussing the issue with Danny, however, and get his opinion on bringing up the topic with Hal.
“Is he the person you had in mind?” Kyle asked.
“He is not. Taking him away from the Galileo would be unfair to the crew since they would be losing both of their medical officers,” Riku replied. “But I do have someone in mind.”
“Tell me about him.”
“He is Doctor Benjamin Okoye, from Lagos, Nigeria. He likes to be called Ben. He entered the Academy preschool when he was nine, the Space Academy at ten, and was in the medical school when he was eleven. He is now a Lieutenant and currently stationed at Gorgas Hospital with full status. Oh, and he’s older than me.”
“By how much?” Kyle asked.
“By one week,” Riku grinned.
“Has he served on a ship?”
“No. He has not been interested in applying because he doesn’t want to deal with the paperwork and administrative responsibilities that come with being a Chief Medical Officer. He just wants to practice medicine, which is his number one love.”
“It sounds like you know him pretty well,” Kyle observed.
“We’ve been friends since prep school. And I don’t think it would cause any problems if he should become the Assistant Chief Medical Officer.”
“You’re right about that. There are protocols to cover those kinds of situations. I’m pretty sure I know the answer to this question, but I just want to hear it from you. Would he be interested in applying for the position, and if so, why?”
“The answer to the first part is yes,” Riku answered. “We talked about it when it looked like I was going to get the Chief Medical Officer position on the Heinlein. As for the second part, he thinks it’s the perfect position for him because he gets to practice medicine without the administrative responsibilities, and we get to be together again.”
Kyle nodded as he wondered if the two of them being together meant what he thought it meant. ‘It would be great to have another couple on board our new ship,’ he mused.
“What about nurses?” Riku asked.
“From what I’ve been told, you get two full-time nurses, one of whom will be the third officer and one nurse-technician, who will do nursing work and technical work as needed. You also get two medical technicians. The Earhart and Sally Ride are still working out the details, but this is probably what we’re going to be assigned.”
“Fascinating. The Explorer Class ships have one doctor, two nurses, and a medical technician in their Health Centers while we will have two doctors, three nurses, and two technicians. I guess that comes from having almost double the crew size. It looks like I’ll be as busy being an administrator as I will being a doctor.”
“I would suggest you get right to work getting to know Steve Boyer, our Operations Chief. You’d be amazed as to how he can save you work by training a couple of members of his staff in writing medical documents and dealing with administrative and medical protocols.”
“That’s not the kind of help I got on the Galileo,” Riku said matter-of-factly.
“That’s probably because they don’t have somebody as well-versed in operations as Steve is. The things Operations did on the Sooloo that saved us time and energy were amazing. Steve may not have been the Operations Chief, but he was the one that made Operations the efficient machine it was. When it comes to Operations, nobody in the fleet is better than Steve. I had to have him as my Chief and made it clear I would settle for nothing less. I wanted my new crew to start out on the right foot.”
“I can’t wait to talk to him. Other than my chief assistant, I get to interview and choose my own personnel, correct?”
“That is correct,” Kyle replied. “But you hire them at the pleasure of the captain, who you probably figured out, is me, and the Big Three.”
“The big three being Commodore Tietokone, Admiral Crusoe, and Admiral Robinson.”
“Correct. But, unless one or more of us finds a big problem, I think your picks will be rubber stamped. I think you’ll see some great candidates on the interview list. You shouldn’t have a problem filling the nursing vacancies.”
“And I know some of the candidates from Gorgas Hospital. There were some nurses and technicians there who were just dying to get into space. I encouraged them to apply and I see they made the interview list. I am going to get started on looking at the rest of the candidates on the list immediately,” Riku said. “I have one more thing to discuss before I go.”
“And I have two more things before you go, and the Captain gets to go first. I will be meeting with all crew members currently in Vegas at 0900 tomorrow.” Kyle entered something into his communicator. “I just sent you the meeting agenda. I will send you a link to the schedule from tomorrow until our official launch date on the twenty-fifth, which I’m supposed to have by tomorrow. We have candidates ready to be interviewed, so we just need to find a time when we are both available to do it.
“The second topic is I heard you mention a Health Center. I take it you’re speaking of the Medical Center or Sick Bay, although I’ve never heard anybody call them that.”
“That’s because nobody does call them Health Centers, at least not in Space Fleet or the Explorer’s program,” Riku responded. “But the way I see it, the crew of these ships is young. We’re all teenagers or tweens and we don’t always think of the best ways to employ good health practices. It’s especially important since we don’t have parents to guide us. I did a lot of Healthy Living workshops on the Galileo and asked Captain Morgan if I could change the name of the Medical Center to the Health Center to emphasize on the crew what we stand for overall.”
“I take it he turned it down.”
“Instantly. He said nobody else called the centers that and he wasn’t about to start. One of the things I learned in the Academy medical program was that the passenger ships had Health Centers, which gave me the idea. Funny, this was the topic I was going to bring up before I left. What do you think of the idea?”
“I like it. I have no problem doing new things on the Heinlein. I want to make us a leader in the Explorer Program. I will have Steve draw up ideas for signage for you and me to approve. And, since I was going to have you introduce yourself to the crew tomorrow, why don’t you make the idea official. I mean you will be a virtual presence at the meeting and you may as well make yourself known, even if it’s from a mile or two away.”
“Thank you, Kyle, but I’d like to announce it live and in person when the signs and everything are ready to go. I really appreciate your doing this.”
“You did it. All I am doing is approving it. Hal says you should have all the information you need for your transfer from the Galileo to Earth by lunch tomorrow. I also want to remind you that you will be doing the interviews. I’ll be there to observe and to answer any questions. If I have a question or two to ask, I’ll wait until you’ve concluded your part of the interview,” he said. “And now, I’m going to log out and get some lunch. You should have all the information you need to join tomorrow’s meeting virtually.”
Tiku’s screen went blank. He stared at it for a couple of minutes as he thought how different it was going to be to serve under a captain who actually listened to his officers and respected what they had to say. He could hardly wait to meet up with Kyle and the crew.
Kyle shut down the monitor he had used for the interview and rose from his chair. He started for the office door when it opened, and Hal walked in. “Hey, Kyle, good to see you’re still here. I was going to ask if you wanted to have lunch with your father and me?” he asked.
“By my dad, do you mean my father the admiral or my father the dad?”
“I was thinking of both of them.”
“Fair enough. Did you guys get the final schedule made?”
“We did and that will be the major topic of our lunch discussion.”
“What about Robert? Isn’t he going to join us?”
“He has a meeting with some A Wing mucky mucks and will be eating with them. Dave will be joining us, however.”
“I thought he was an observer on the Sally Ride and the Heinlein,” Kyle said.
“He came Earthside with Lev and Michael for the meeting.” Hal was referring to Commodore Lev Kochanski, the technical director of the Heinlein shakedown and Michael Ellis the operating captain of the cruises. Jerry Marshall, the Operations Director, spent most of his time on Earth taking care of the administrative duties. A large part of his time was spent working with Admiral Robinson, a man he did not regard very highly. The feeling was mutual.
Dave and Greg came into Hal’s office. “I made a reservation for four at the Bistro,” Greg told everyone. The Galaxy Bistro was located on the seventh floor of the A Wing, where the offices of most of the top admirals and administrators were located. 
The eatery was for officers who were Captains or higher, and that included guests. The seating was mostly private or semi-private. The restaurant served breakfast, lunch, and dinner and was staffed by the top chefs in Space Fleet.
“Nothing like meeting in luxury to celebrate the real start to the Heinlein story,” Dave said.
“What do you mean the real start?” Kyle asked. “The Heinlein has been doing shakedown cruises for over a month.”
“True, but who are you meeting with tomorrow morning?”
“The full crew as it stands right now. Oh, I see what you mean. The real story starts with the crew.”
“Exactly,” Greg said. “Although you still have a few positions to fill and some members of the crew are not yet on Earth, the bulk of your crew is in Vegas and ready to get to work.” Kyle nodded in agreement.
“I take it this will be your first meal at the Bistro,” Hal said.
“I’ve only been a true captain for two days,” Kyle pointed out.
“True. You’re going to love it. The place is a first-class restaurant, pure and simple.”
Greg saw the uncomfortable look on Kyle’s face. “But, it’s not quite priced like one, plus your meal card will handle most of your charges. Captains are well paid, especially those with a command, but wealthy doesn’t describe one.” Greg planned to surprise Kyle after they finished eating by paying his bill.
“Well, in case you’ve forgotten, dad, I’m thirteen. It’s lunch time and that means I’m extra hungry.”
Dave, Hal, Greg, and Kyle went together to the Galaxy Bistro, located on the seventh and top floor of the A Wing.
The quartet stepped off the elevator and into the lobby, and walked up to the reception desk where they were met by Herman Mathewson, the lunch maître d’. He was a friendly man who had just the right amount of smugness to be good at his job. 
“Good afternoon, Admiral Robinson, and welcome to lunch at the Galaxy Bistro. And good afternoon to you as well, Commodore Tietokone.” He looked Dave over and checked his nametag. “I don’t believe we’ve met, Admiral Bowman.” Since Herman never forgot a name or a face, he knew they hadn’t met, but put the onus on himself to let the young admiral know he would have been remembered if they had met.
When he got to the fourth person in the group, Herman made a rare error. He had left Kyle for last knowing the situation would become uncomfortable and he wanted everyone else to feel comfortable before making the request he was required to make. He addressed the person who had made the reservation and happened to be the senior officer in the group as well.
“My apologies, Admiral Robinson, but I must remind you that all diners in the Galaxy Bistro must be an officer ranked Captain or higher. You may want to explain that to your guest since I will not be able to seat him.”
Greg waited patiently for Herman to finish before sinking his boat. Kyle said nothing, knowing that his father, as one of the highest-ranking admirals in the fleet, would handle the mistake with the efficiency and diplomacy expected of him.
“Herman, I would like for you to meet my son, Kyle Robinson.” Greg knew Herman had painted himself into a corner and was quickly thinking of a way to remind his guest that even his son had to be at least a captain in rank. “Who happens to be the Captain of the Robert Heinlein.”
Herman took a more careful look at Kyle’s uniform, saw his bars, and looked horror stricken. “Oh my, I am so sorry Captain Robinson. You just look so young I just assumed there was no way you would be captain.”
“I’ve never known you to assume anything, Herman,” Greg grinned. “You are always right on top of things.”
“It would appear you can take the ‘always’ out of your description of me.” Herman looked at Kyle and said, “Captain Robinson, because of my unforgivable error, your lunch as well as your next meal in the Bistro will be complimentary. You have my complete and abject apologies.” Greg had absolutely no problem with the free meal, since he had planned to pay for Kyle’s lunch.
“Your apology is accepted, Mr. Mathewson.” Kyle held out his right hand and Herman shook it. “You’re not the first person to be surprised by my status.”
“May I ask how old you are?”
“I am thirteen and I know I look younger.”
Meanwhile, a commodore and two captains came into the line. Herman called the lead waiter over to seat the Robinson party and turned to greet the next guests. The waiter introduced himself as Samuel and escorted them to their table. He passed out menus and made his lunch recommendations.
Kyle was beyond impressed. He had thought the first-floor cafeterias were the gourmet apex of Space Fleet Headquarters, but they were like fast food restaurants compared to the Bistro.
Kyle saw a man in civilian clothes eating with two admirals at a booth. He assumed that he was a senior officer in civies but decided to ask about it anyway. “So, it’s okay to wear civies in here?” he asked.
“The answer is officers must be in uniform,” Greg answered. “Whether it’s a duty uniform, dress uniform, or work coveralls, doesn’t matter as long as it’s an official uniform. Wearing dress uniforms or coveralls is rare here at HQ.” Kyle noted that Greg, Hal, and Dave were all wearing duty uniforms, which he was wearing as well.
“If you’re asking about the man at the booth off to your left sitting with the two admirals, he is the exception to the senior officer rule. He happens to be Senator Carlos Perez of Mexico who serves in the World Congress. He just happens to be a member of the Commercial Space Transport committee. Elected officials may eat here with Space Fleet Brass. They are expected to follow a prescribed dress code although I doubt no maître d who values his job would turn any of them away because of what they were wearing.”
“Unless maybe they were wearing nothing,” Kyle giggled.
“I see you’re a thirteen-year-old at heart,” Dave said.
“And proud of it. Who are the two Admirals?” Kyle asked as he quickly returned everyone to his original topic.
“Those are Admirals Harley Benson, the Director of Space Fleet Freight Transport and Admiral Rene Trudeau, the Director of Passenger Services,” Greg answered.
“I wonder who’s buying,” Hal mused.
“I can almost guarantee you that person is not the one in civilian clothes,” Greg said. 
“All this gives me one more question about all this,” Kyle said.
“Go for it.”
“Well, until a couple of days ago I was the captain of the Heinlein, but my rank was commander. Then I got promoted to the rank of captain.”
“I know what’s coming next,” Greg laughed as their waiter showed up with dessert menus.
“Then maybe you should ask the question, dad.”
“The question would have been does an officer who commands a starship but is a commander get dining room privileges in here?”
“You have a very intelligent father, Kyle,” Hal said.
“Either that or he has a pretty predictable son,” Kyle said. 
“The answer is no, he must have the rank of captain,” Greg told them. “And before you start squawking, I’ll tell you that I oppose that policy. I feel that anybody who has the wherewithal to command a starship has earned the right to eat at the Bistro. But a clique of four fuddy-duddy admirals whlo are a majority on the seven-man food service board like to get all hoity toity about who can or can’t eat here.”
“Doesn’t Admiral Mirah have a say?”
“Nope. But he can try to influence opinion and he has the power to appoint new board members. Since board members have a three-year term limit one would think things would change. But nothing has changed in the twenty years the Bistro has been in existence.”
“Thanks, dad. And I’m ready to eat dessert.
Hal and Dave were ready as well, but Greg passed. “For me it’s dessert with dinner only.”
“Hmm, okay, if you say so, dad,” Kyle smirked.
After dessert, Greg, Dave, and Hal paid their checks. Kyle enjoyed having his meal comped and thought that there were some positives to being not only a young captain, but an even younger-looking captain. As the group left the Galaxy Bistro, Kyle commented that he wouldn’t mind coming back before the Heinlein launched, if for no other reason than to test Herman’s memory.
On their way back to the D Wing, Greg’s communicator chirped.  He saw who it was and knew he could be informal. “Greg Robinson here,” he answered.
“Hey, Greg, it’s Steve, but you probably already knew that. Anyway, I’ve got good news. After your great job of setting things up working out the details was a piece of cake.”
“Good to hear. I’m just returning from lunch. I’ll get back to you as soon as I get to my office.”
“Fantastic. My communicator and I will await your call eagerly.” Steve ended the communication and Greg put his communicator back into his pocket.
“Steve Boyer seems to be quite a character,” Greg chuckled. “But from our brief time working together today, I can also tell he really knows his stuff and how to put that knowledge to work.”
“Steve’s the best,” Kyle said. “I was going to get him as my Operations Chief even if it meant kidnapping him.”
“I can understand why,” Greg grinned. “Hal, I want you and Kyle to be available for the next hour. Once I get Steve’s report, I should be able to put the pieces together on picking up Dr. Tatsu from the Galileo and will give you the procedure.” Greg broke off from his three lunch companions and headed for his office while the others went to Hal’s office to work on getting through the twenty-fifth of October.
Ronnie Robinson grabbed a seat at a table and waited for Lin Chang to show. They had finally connected just after 1000 and agreed to meet for lunch at the Skyward Restaurant at 1215. Ronnie had spent much of the morning in a video conference with his assistant chief, Kai Daniels, who was on the Sooloo which was Earthbound.
The Skyward Restaurant was on the 106th floor of the 107 story Stratosphere Tower, which was the focal point of Space Fleet Headquarters. Space Shuttle Control was located on the top floor. The restaurant took up the entire floor.  It was a rotating restaurant that offered breathtaking views of Las Vegas and its environs. It was open to all members of Space Fleet and their entire families, making it a popular eatery. As with the Galaxy Bistro, reservations were suggested.
Lin Chang arrived at 1218 and sat across from Ronnie. “Hello, Lin.” Ronnie gave her his best smile which she returned.
“I’m sorry to be late,” Lin responded. “I know being late is bad form in the Explorer Program, but I got hung up in a meeting with Shelly, my captain, and then got lost getting from the D Wing to here.” She noticed Ronnie’s questioning look, which she understood. “I know, I know, it’s a big tall tower sticking 1200 feet up out of flat land, but I was trying to get here through the underground passages, which is not as easy as it sounds when you’re new to the HQ complex, even with all the signage. I should have gone outside and kept the tower in my sight.”
Ronnie nodded in understanding. “Hey, I was new here once too. I remember my dad taking me here when I was little and getting the big tour my first year at the Academy complete with maps and instructions. None of that helped when I came into this complicated complex for the first time.”
A waitress came up to their table and asked if they were ready to order.
“I am,” Ronnie told her. Lin took a quick glance at the menu and indicated she was ready as well. Ronnie ordered a BLT and a root beer to drink, and Lin ordered a Caesar salad and a lemonade.
“So, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?” Ronnie asked.  
“Engineering stuff. You’re what fifteen? Sixteen?”
“I turned sixteen last month.”
“And I’ll be fifteen on Christmas Day.”
“Wow, you’re the first Christmas baby I’ve ever met.”
“It’s interesting, but my family and I have made it work. They’ve always had a half birthday party for me in June so I could get my presents spread out. That’s been harder to work out since I started at the Academy, but it works.”
The waiter arrived with their drinks. “And your point about our ages?” Ronnie asked.
“I’ve learned a lot at the Academy about engineering. Commander Ennis is a really great teacher.” Captain Conrad “Connie” Ennis was the lead teacher in the Engineering Department at the Academy. “He was a Chief Engineer on a starship before an injury left him Earthbound.”
“I agree that Connie was the best teacher in the department and one of the best at the Academy. And I bet I know what you’re going to say—you’re going to say as good as he is and even with as much experience as he has, he’s never been a teenage Chief Engineer on a starship where everybody around you is as inexperienced as you are.”
“You read my thoughts perfectly,” Lin grinned as their meals were served. And now I’d love to pick your brain while we eat.” Which was exactly what she did.
After Lin picked Ronnie’s brain through lunch and dessert (vanilla ice cream with a hot chocolate topping for both) she thanked him for his time and patience.
“I will be boarding the Sally R for the day tomorrow and I’m sure your schedule will have you busy. I will have Sunday off and wondered what your schedule looked like on Sunday,” Lin asked.
“I haven’t seen our final schedule. Hal and Kyle said they would send it out as soon as they had it. Why did you want to know?”
“I thought maybe we could get together then if we both had the day off. There aren’t too many days off left in our lives, so I was wondering if  maybe we could help each other enjoy one of our last ones.”
“I like the idea. I’ll let you know as soon as I know, and we’ll go from there.” They both paid for lunch, said their goodbyes, and headed to whatever they had scheduled to start their afternoon.
<Hal’s Office>
Kyle closed his notebook and placed it in his document folder. “Okay, the schedules are ready to be messaged out to the crew and printed for tomorrow’s meeting. Tomorrow is going to be a wild day what with the whole crew coming to the meeting.”
“Great job, Kyle,” Hal said.
“I’m glad you liked Riku’s choice of Assistant Chief Medical Officer,” he told Hal.
“Everyone I’ve talked to about Dr. Okoye holds him in high regard and his evaluations have all been first rate. All we need to do is set up an appointment to interview him to make his appointment official,” Hal said. “And since he lives in the Strat, that should be easy to set up in the next couple of days.” Floors 11-30 of the Stratosphere Tower contained quarters for those wishing to live on base.
“We’ve been working nonstop since lunch.”
“Welcome to the world of high command. But I think we accomplished a lot this afternoon. All we really need is for Greg to give us the itinerary for transporting Riku to Earth while we transport his replacement to the Galileo.
As if on cue, Greg and Steve Boyer entered Hal’s office. Hal had a no-knock policy for entering his office unless the red light above the door was on. “Well, did you guys get everything figured out?” Hal asked.
“We did,” Greg replied. “I seem to recall somewhere in the deep dark reaches of my brain that I told everyone we’d have Riku’s transport arranged by lunch today. I guess I forgot I was dealing with the upper reaches of Space Fleet bureaucracy.”
“We managed to wind our way through it though,” Steve said.
“I might be an admiral, but Steve, here, is the master of cutting through even the toughest crusts of bureaucracy. To him, red tape is something to be cut. He did the talking and I put the authority of my rank behind him and voila, we have a plan. Since he did almost all of the organizing, I’ll let him do the talking.”
Steve started right in. “In a nutshell, Captain Morgan made it clear the Galileo’s assigned itinerary made it impossible for it to transport Dr. Tatsu to Earth, even with the new star drive. That meant we needed to find alternate transportation that could meet up with the Galileo. By the way, Captain Morgan always called him Dr. Tatsu and never Riku. So, I will call him Dr. Riku for now.”
“So, you had to find an available Explorer ship that could meet with the Galileo and pick up Riku,” Kyle said as he sorted Steve’s tale through his head.
“Correct, Captain Kyle,” Steve said with a sly smile. “Well, there wasn’t one available, but there was a Space Fleet ship available that had just become the first Space Fleet starship to be retrofitted with the new Darastixian star drive.”
“Steve is referring to the Pegasus under Captain Calum Rosach, a top captain who commands a great ship,” Greg said.
“I thought that since the ship needed to run some deep space trials to test their new drives it wouldn’t be a problem to have it scheduled to meet the Galileo during one of those trials and take care of our transport problem. The answer I got to that request was along the lines of, ‘that might be how you Explorers do it, but that isn’t how the big boys of Space Fleet do it.’ You can imagine how Mr. Admiral Robinson handled that.” Hal and Kyle both grinned and nodded.
“It took a little time to convince them that my authority is not limited to the Explorer Program and that I am one of the ranking admirals in Space Fleet. That and a call by your operations genius while I was banging my head against the wall talking to a Captain Pratt in Space Fleet operations.”
“Who did you call, as if I can’t guess,” Kyle asked.
“I assumed the name Bill Mirah carried a lot of weight in Star Fleet Headquarters, and boy does it,” Steve said.
“That was my guess,” Kyle grinned. He knew it had really helped over the last few months that the Fleet Admiral was a friend and admirer of the Explorer Program.
“I will conclude by saying that Dr. Carey will be leaving on the Pegasus the day after tomorrow, they will meet up with the Galileo, the doctor will be traded straight across the board, and Dr. Riku will be arriving here a week from Saturday on the seventeenth.”
“You mean the Galileo couldn’t handle what is no more than a five-day trip to Earth?” Kyle asked.
“Since the Galileo will be angling away from Earth as the Pegasus works to intercept it, you can probably add a day, maybe two to that total,” Greg replied. “But I see your point.”
“The Galileo did agree to not travel at full speed while the Pegasus chases them,” Greg said. “Even the stubborn Captain Morgan had to listen to and follow the orders of not one, but two senior Admirals.”
On that note the meeting broke up. Steve and Greg left the office. “I’m going to send a message to Riku and let him know I will be contacting him at 1545. Unless he is busy playing doctor, of course,” Kyle said. He quickly sent his message to the Galileo and then stood up to leave.
“A couple things before you go,” Hal told Kyle. Kyle plopped back down into his chair. “First of all, I can see why you insisted on having Steve as your operations chief. That kid is really on top of things and is a bulldog when it comes to getting things done.”
“He will be pleased to hear the compliment,” Kyle said.
“Second, I want to compliment you on your work as we get the Heinlein in shape, both physically and personnel wise. You’re doing a great job of fitting into that captain’s chair.”
“Thanks, Hal. I appreciate that a lot. I wouldn’t have gotten very far without your assistance and understanding. You’ve always been there for me since I was a scared and hard to deal with little ensign.” Kyle looked up at the wall clock and said, “And now I have to not be late for a meeting with my senior officers to get our final plans for tomorrow worked out.” This time Kyle stood up, grabbed his folder, and left the office.
Hal looked at the closed door and grinned. He had meant every word of what he’d told Kyle. But, like everyone else, he’d had his doubts about giving Kyle a command at his age. There was no doubt about Kyle’s courage, integrity, and leadership skills. And there was the experience he’d gained in a couple of conflicts that put him way ahead of the few peers being considered for the Heinlein command.  But there was also the age and maturity situation. At thirteen he was entering puberty with the angst and self-doubt that could accompany it. Yes, Kyle was part Darastixian, but physically his body looked to be obeying his human genes, although his mental skills were a different matter. Simply put, he was brilliant.
Hal had complimented Kyle, not only because it was important he do so as Kyle’s immediate superior as well as his friend, but also to ensure that Kyle had the mental weapons he needed to fight the self-doubt and angst of young adolescence.
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