Voyagers: SS Robert Heinlein

Chapter Four-The Making of a Crew

The Heinlein’s senior officers have been picked. Only the Chief Medical Officer needed to be named and the process for doing that was almost complete.
<Space Fleet Headquarters, D Wing Cafeteria>
Tudupe Mituti and Enzan Kage had two reasons to meet at the cafeteria. The first was to eat lunch. The second was to discuss a change to their names. Selecting food and drink for lunch and loading it on their trays was the easy part. The name change was the tough part. They sat in a booth and started right in on both reasons for their meeting.
What Enzan Kage wanted to do with their names was switch the order of their surnames and given names. In the Japanese tradition their surname came first and was followed by their given names, which often confused their crewmates. Since most of the crew of the Heinlein would be boys they had never met, Kage felt it would help simplify things if he and Mituti officially switched their names.
“But wouldn’t switching our traditional names defile our culture, or traditions, and our ancestors?” Mituti asked.
“Not at all,” Kage replied. “In fact, it would honor our traditions by ensuring our names would never be misused or confused. As Japanese we would always get it right, and those not familiar with the tradition wouldn’t stumble and fumble with our names.”
“Has it been done that way before? I never changed my name around at the Academy.”
“Did your teachers and friends and classmates get things confused?”
“Yeah, like maybe a third of the time.”
“There you have it,” Kage said. “Look at it this way. Long ago when some of the best Japanese baseball players came to America to play baseball, they switched their names for the same reason I propose that you and I do it. The legendary Ichiro Suzuki did it, although he went by just Ichiro on his uniform shirt. But in the scorebook, he was Suzuki. Another legend, Shohei Ohtani did the same thing, and he used both names. Nobody looked down at them for doing it that way. And they weren’t the only ones to do it. All of the Japanese players did it.”
“If it’s good enough for legends, it’s good enough for me. But won’t it be complicated to change it, you know, officially?” Mituti asked.
“Nope. I’ve already talked about it with Kyle and with Steve Boyer. Steve says he knows what to do. All he has to do is download the proper forms, fill them out, and send them to Space Fleet personnel. It will all be done in a hurry, and it will be official. The good news is, while this document changes everything for Space Fleet, Steve says it doesn’t change our legal names,” Kage explained.
“So, what do we do to make it happen?”
“After we finish our work this afternoon, we will meet with Steve in Hal’s office and get all of the paperwork done. He says it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.”
“And I’m still Mituti and you’re still Kage, we just switch it around writing, nobody gets confused and our ancestors will be happy, right?”
“All of the above,” Kage said before taking a big bite of his hamburger.  
“What about the kids?” Mituti asked.
“Well, Jaku isn’t a kid, but he, Akage, and Tei will be told about the situation before the day is finished. Unless they object, and I doubt they will, introducing themselves by their given name is all they have to do. No paperwork is required, unless any of them elect to go to the Academy.”
“I see that you’ve got this all thought out.”
“Very necessary if you’re the Chief of Tactical and Security,” Kage grinned.
<Space Fleet Headquarters, D Wing, Conference Room 3>
Conference room 3 was a large meeting room that could be divided into smaller rooms. Hal had ordered that the conference room be made into ten offices, each with a desk, two desk chairs, a desktop computer, an interoffice phone, and a Space Fleet communicator. Each senior officer was assigned an office as were Kyle and Devin. Another office would be for the Chief Medical Officer once Kyle approved of the choice made by Hal and Admiral Crusoe. That office was serving as a waiting area for candidates having a live interview. The temporary walls were soundproof, giving the offices complete privacy.
The main business of the afternoon was the Senior Officers doing final interviews with the applicants for the Assistant Chief positions. Most of the Heinlein’s crew had been signed up by the end of the previous week. That crew consisted of recent cadets from the Space Academy who had met the minimum qualifications to serve on a starship, crew members of other ships who were transferred, either at their request, by Space Fleet personnel, or by the Explorer Program High Command. Commodore Hal Tietokone, Admiral Robert Crusoe, Admiral Greg Robinson, and Vice-Admiral Dave Bowman made up the Explorer High Command.
For the most part, the Senior Officers would be choosing their Assistant Chiefs from that pool. They could look to another source, such as another starship, with Kyle’s permission. For his part, Kyle had to clear that candidate with High Command and the Captain of the candidate’s ship.
Candidates who were currently in Las Vegas would come to a live interview. That group consisted of transfers who had already been transported to Earth by their former ship and Space Academy students who were eligible for active duty in the Explorer program. Each Senior Officer would be interviewing two finalists. After a Senior Officer made his choice, that candidate would be interviewed by Kyle, who had the final say in the matter. If Kyle disapproved of a candidate, he would then interview the Senior Officer’s second choice.
The six Senior Officers would be busy all afternoon interviewing and deciding. They didn’t have to submit their final choice until Thursday, but all of them wanted to make the decision as soon as possible. Each officer followed the same protocol, and each ended up making his decision by the end of the day. Early was especially important if their new assistant chief needed to be transported to Earth. It would allow for more time to meet the Heinlein before it left Earth. Kyle and Devin were in their offices where their main responsibility was to be available to their senior officers to give advice and to prepare Kyle’s final interviews.
<Commander Ronald Robinson, Chief Engineer>
Ronnie knew who he wanted as his assistant chief, but he had to fulfill the Space Fleet protocol of conducting at least two final interviews. His first interview was with Ensign Edward McGill. McGill was thirteen and served on the engineering staff of the Carl Sagan under the command of Gene Devereaux. Edward was on the transfer list and had arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday. Ronnie knew he would be a member of the Heinlein’s engineering staff no matter which of the two remaining candidates would end up being hired. This would be a live interview.
Ronnie logged into the Space Fleet site and was pleased to see that Edward had arrived in the waiting area at 1250 for his 1305 appointment. He entered the waiting room, introduced himself to Edward, and escorted him to his office space.  
Ronnie then proceeded with the standard interview which consisted of asking about Edward’s background growing up and educationally. He then went into Edward’s duties on board the Sagan and went into depth regarding the candidate’s knowledge of Engineering duties and protocols.  
When they finished, Ronnie told Eddie (as Edward asked to be called) he had another interview and would contact him about who he decided to choose no later than 1000 tomorrow.  Ronnie liked Eddie. He was personable and knowledgeable. When it came to the engines on an Explorer class ship, Eddie knew his stuff. He had also done his homework on the operation of the engines on an Earhart Class ship, which also impressed Ronnie.
His second interview would be at 1400 with Ensign Kai Daniels, who was sixteen and on the engineering staff of the Sooloo. That gave him a potential fifteen minutes to relax. Since Kai was a member of the Sooloo crew the chances were good he would be early for the interview. Ronnie was looking forward to the interview since Kyle spoke highly of him. According to Kyle, even though Kai wasn’t one of the two engineering chiefs he was as knowledgeable about the system as those two were.
Kai ended up being everything Ronnie expected and then some. Ronnie had no doubt that Kai was his man, or was it his boy? No matter—Kai Daniels was going to be offered the post of Assistant Chief Engineer of the Heinlein. Not only did he have more experience working at a high level on an engineering staff, he was also three years older than Eddie. Kai’s maturity level showed in the interview and was one of many factors leading to Ronnie choosing him.
Kai hadn’t been on the transfer list, so Kyle had to jump through all the requisite hoops so his former shipmate could become a candidate for the Heinlein position. Kyle had told him that Jordan Rivers, the Sooloo captain, hadn’t been happy about the possibility of losing another valued member of his crew. He had already lost his Assistant Chief of Security (Kage Enzan), Assistant Operations Chief (Steve Boyer), one very talented up and coming astrogator (Mituti Tudupe), his Chief Pilot (Danny) along with two fighter pilots, his Chief of Information (Brad Kanye), and, to top it all off, his Chief Astrogator (Kyle) to the Heinlein. But Kyle had also told Ronnie that Jordan was a fair person who was not about to stand in the way of officers who wanted to move up and had qualifications to do so. It would be Jordan’s job as Captain to fill the gaps with the best talent available.
Ronnie left for Hal’s office where he would report his choice to Hal and Kyle. Then would come the tough job, which was telling Eddie that he had chosen Kai as his new Assistant Chief. However, that would have to wait for Hal and Kyle’s official decision. Unofficially, Kai was the choice. Ronnie would also tell Eddie that he had been very impressed with him and was ready to groom him to be the number three officer on the Engineering staff.
<Commander Brad Kanye, Chief of Information Services)
Brad felt ready for his two final interviews. His sources of information for the finalists were the candidate’s application, the recommendation of his captain and the senior officer he reported to, and, of course, his brief first interview.
One of his finalists, twelve-year-old Cadet Kareem Bashar, had been a student at the Space Academy who had qualified for the Explorer Program the month before and was then assigned to the Heinlein. His academic record showed him to be a brilliant computer student who was actively involved in Academy athletic and academic activities. He was an outstanding soccer player and got high marks from his teachers in deportment and work habits. This would be a live interview.
Kareem’s first interview hadn’t revealed much, but Brad had been told that was usually the case with a first interview. The purpose was more to give the interviewer a quick feel of the candidate but didn’t allow for going into much depth. His second interview showed him to be quiet and at times hesitant in his answers. But when Brad gave Kareem a computer quiz, he became more animated and showed he possessed a wide range of knowledge regarding computers and computer programming. Brad gave him high marks after closing off the interview.
He then took a quick restroom break and then quickly prepped for his second interview. That one promised to be a very interesting one. The candidate was eleven-year-old Ensign Nelson Mirah, who was serving on the SS Discovery, commanded by Carlos Pagan. What made him interesting was that he was the grandson of Fleet Admiral William Mirah. He was not on the transfer list and was obviously looking to transfer for the purpose of being the Assistant Chief of Information Systems.
“Good afternoon, Nelson,” Brad said after entering the virtual interview room. Brad knew it was afternoon on the Discovery since all Space Fleet starships operated on Pacific Time, which was the time zone for Las Vegas. Brad saw an extremely cute young adolescent with bright red hair cut to the longest length allowed by Explorer Program regulations. The Explorer regulations allowed for longer hair than the official Space Fleet length.
“Hey, Commander Kanye. Thank you for choosing me to be one of your second interviews. I sure appreciate it.” Brad quickly made a mental note that Kareem had not thanked him for the interview. On the other hand, he had been very serious and all business, while Nelson jumped right into the interview all chipper and friendly.
“You can call me Brad if you wish. I don’t get formal very often.”
“I’ll try. The Discovery is a very formal ship and it’s not often we can call an officer who commands us by first name,” Nelson said in his high-pitched boy soprano. While his voice made him sound immature, his expressions were mature for his age. Brad had no problem with Nelson’s age since a good friend of his was eleven when he reported to the Sooloo. Brad figured that Kyle Robinson’s young age had not stood in his way at all. He also knew that Nelson’s twelfth birthday was just a couple of weeks away.
Brad went through his basic interview, saving his computer quiz for last. He knew that Nelson was on the Information Systems staff of the Discovery, which meant he had a better understanding of the ship’s information protocols than most of the crew. What Brad wanted to find out was how much better than average Nelson’s knowledge was.
Brad was surprised to learn that Nelson’s systems knowledge was as good as Kareem’s and in some cases way better. Brad had not only been a fellow officer of Kyle’s, but he had also been a best friend of his from the time they met before the Sooloo departed on its first official mission. As a result, Brad was aware of some of the flack Kyle had to take at times for being the son of an admiral. That issue had cropped up quite a bit after Kyle’s father became the Admiral in Chief of the Explorer Program and Kyle became the youngest captain in the program when he was promoted to the command of the Heinlein. Brad had a very good idea of what Nelson would be putting up with if he became an Assistant Chief on the Heinlein as an eleven-year-old.
“And that’s how I would test a Nova 7 LSC computer to make sure all systems were ready to operate life support,” Nelson was saying as Brad’s mind returned to the reality of the interview. Brad had asked Nelson how he would bring a computer in the life support system back online after fixing the hard drive that had crashed. Brad had caught all but a couple of sentences and was upset with himself that he had missed that much. Nelson not only knew his stuff, but his lilting soprano voice along with his enthusiasm for the topic made him interesting to listen to.
In a way, Brad was glad he would be Nelson’s immediate supervisor or else he might have to work hard not to seduce him. Under Explorer Program regulations such a seduction was permissible, but Brad would have to jump through a few administrative hoops first and he’d just as soon break his new assistant in properly before giving any more thought to seeing what the sexy ginger was like in bed. What Brad’s husband Steve did with him was another issue altogether. Brad knew Steve was very much attracted to gingers.
Brad liked Kareem, but Nelson was going to be his choice for Assistant Chief. Captain Pagan had told him that Nelson was number three officer in Information Systems and in his opinion did more and better work than the Assistant Chief, who was good at his job. The Chief and Assistant Chief were both fifteen and probably wouldn’t be moving soon, leaving Nelson stuck in his number three position. “As much as I would hate to lose Nelson, and his positivity, leadership skills, and hard work, I won’t stand in his way of moving up the ladder,” Captain Pagan had said. “I know he’s young, but you wouldn’t know it by working with him. He is ambitious and wants to move up fast, just like his role model, Kyle Robinson. The two have a lot in common, including coming from a good pedigree.”
As far as Brad was concerned, picking Nelson was a done deal. Kareem would almost certainly work his way into being the number three Information Systems officer. He felt strongly that his top two information system officers would be as good as Roger Duncan, his Assistant, and Tai Fujima had been on the Sooloo. Roger was now the Sooloo’s Chief Information Systems officer.
<Lieutenant Commander Kage Enzan, Chief of Tactical and Security>
Kage had two interviews. Both would be virtual interviews. One was with fourteen-year-year old Lieutenant Junior Grade Jarrod Carpenter and the other with fourteen-year-old Lieutenant Donald Nixon. His first interview was with Jarrod, who currently was an astrogator on the SS Las Vegas, commanded by Captain Fred Newman. Jarrod had applied for the position and would only leave the Vegas if he was hired. Jarrod was from Alaska and was part Inuit. He had jet black hair and intriguing green eyes.
After going through the basic interview questions, Kage asked what he thought would be the key question in the interview. “So, tell me, Jarrod, after serving in Astrogation for a little over a year, why the interest in applying for Tactical and Security?”
“I am interested in eventually becoming a starship captain either in the Explorer program or later in Space Fleet,” Jarrod replied. “I did well in the tactical classes at the Academy and spent a couple of months working in that department when I was assigned to the Vegas and really like it. Captain Newman transferred me to Navigation, though, because he said he needed another officer there and my background was good. I know it sounds silly, but the thing I enjoyed the most in Navigation was becoming a shuttle pilot.”
“It’s not silly at all. It sounds perfectly reasonable to me,” Kage grinned.
“Anyway, I’d like to go back to Tactical and Security, which is where I think my strengths lie.”
Kage liked Jarrod’s answers, his evaluations, his work background, and his outgoing personality. Captain Newman had given him a high recommendation.
Kage wasn’t quite as enamored by the second candidate. Donald had served in Tactical and Security on the Discovery, but during his interview it became apparent that Donald did not have a good concept of the tactics side of the job.  While Donald had received a good recommendation from Captain Carlos Pagan, there was something off about it. Unlike recommendations Kage had read for other candidates, this one stood out as much for what it didn’t say as for what it did say. It seemed to have a lot of what Captain Rivers, Kage’s captain on the Sooloo, called boiler plate language. In other words, it said nice things without really dealing with specifics. Kage knew that Brad was interviewing someone from the Discovery and was going to see if Captain Pagan had used the same style on his recommendation for that candidate.
Another thing that Kage wondered about was the fact that Nixon had asked for a virtual interview instead of face-to-face. Nixon was on Earth and theoretically in Las Vegas because he had been a Space Fleet personnel transfer. Nixon had sent Kage an email saying he was visiting his mother in Denver and would be unable to attend a live interview. Kage agreed. That, in itself, wasn’t a problem. The problem was that Nixon’s application stated that he would be staying with both parents in Las Vegas between the time the Discovery transported him to Earth, and he would be boarding the Heinlein to start his service on his new ship.
Kage found Donald to be standoffish and unwilling to fully commit himself to the interview. He answered Kage’s questions with the shortest answers he could conjure up and still give a reasonable reply to the question. Donald’s answers were a lot like his recommendations; they answered the questions but without dealing with specifics.
As Kage neared the end of his list of questions, he asked Donald how his mother was.
“She’s great,” Donald answered. “I’m having a good visit.”
“I thought your mother lived in Las Vegas.”
Donald hesitated a moment and then said, “She does, but she’s been in Denver because my grandmother is sick. So, I’m visiting both her and my grandmother.”
That sounded like a reasonable answer to Kage so he removed the Denver visit from his list of negatives. But he still didn’t like the guy and his haughty attitude and his indifferent answers. Jarrod Carpenter was his choice for Assistant Chief of Tactical and Security. He would have liked to split the main duties between his Assistant Chief and his number three officer, but he would have to figure out who that officer would be first.
He would give Jarrod first choice of which area of responsibility he wanted. He decided he would not give Donald the other area of responsibility. In fact, he hoped that Donald would be assigned to a different department.
<Commander Steve Boyer, Chief of Operations>
Steve’s choice was another one that was made before he did the requisite two interviews. Commander Lucias Hayes, the Chief of Operations and second officer on the Endurance had applied for the Assistant Chief position on the Heinlein. Steve knew the reason why Lucias was willing to take a demotion and the decline in salary that accompanied it.
Lucias and Devin French had become an item on the Endurance. Lucias gave Devin his complete blessing when Devin asked him if he was okay with him applying for the First Officer position on the Heinlein. “Even though Kyle isn’t supposed to give anything away, we’ve become good friends and he’s given some hints about what he was going to decide that were hard to ignore,” Devin had told Lucias. “I’m more than certain that the job will be mine if I want it.”
Devin was the Chief Astrogator for the Endurance and moving to a First Officer position was his next step up. The position on the Heinlein would be perfect for him since he and Kyle worked together so well remotely and enjoyed each other’s company. ‘And who would have ever thought that would happen,’ Devin mused.
As much as Lucias wanted Devin to remain on the Endurance, he loved Devin too much to stand in his way. He was going to have to sacrifice so that the boy he loved could move up in the Explorer hierarchy.
But when the Endurance reached Earth Lucias and Devin had a hard time separating. Their sex the night before had been mind blowing. The same was true the two nights before that, but the night before had been the cherry on top of the sexual sundae. 
One thing Lucias learned as he and Devin hugged and kissed and wiped away tears before transporting Devin’s belongings to the shuttle bay in a transport was how much Devin, the self-professed straight boy, loved him. Somewhere since Lucias had moved into Devin’s stateroom, their relationship had grown from mere sexual partners to lovers.
Lucias and Devin had discussed Lucias flying to Earth in the shuttle with Devin. Lucias decided against it; he was afraid he might end up going AWOL and not returning to his ship. The two exchanged a last kiss and Devin left for Earth on the shuttle Ringo Starr, one of the four short range shuttles on the Endurance. The other three were named for the other three members of the Fab Four of the twentieth century.
Devin learned how his relationship had changed with Lucias as well. He still considered himself straight and planned to start dating girls once he aged out of the Explorer Program. Yet, his love for Lucias was sending him a different message than he had expected as the separation went into its third day. He learned that Lucias was no longer just a boy he really liked and who was a great sexual partner. Lucias had become a boy he was madly in love with and started planning how the two of them could get together again.
It turned out that plan didn’t take long to work itself out. Lucias was willing to step down to an Assistant Chief to be with Devin while at the same time Devin was willing to return to the Endurance as its Chief of Navigation. But Lucias wouldn’t hear of that solution. He knew that Devin’s dream was to become a starship captain, just like his mentor Kyle Robinson had become. Lucias loved the responsibility of being a Senior Officer, but he had little desire to become a Command Officer.
Steve’s other interview was of a Space Fleet initiated transfer. Lieutenant Carl Peterson, who came from the Constellation was perfunctory. It was a pleasant interview, but Karl was nowhere near as qualified as Lucias.
When the two had agreed on what they wanted to do, it was a matter of informing the captains of their respective ships and setting the wheels in motion. The result was the present situation: Commander Lucias Hayes was now Assistant Chief of Operations on the Heinlein and stepped down as Chief of Operations on the Endurance while Commander Devin French was the First Officer of the Robert A. Heinlein. The two lovers breathed sighs of relief and could hardly wait until the Endurance returned to Earth to drop off Lucias.
<Lieutenant JG Mituti Tudupe, Chief Astrogator.>
Mituti was sitting in Hal’s conference room with Kyle trying to get some encouragement and a boost of self-confidence from his captain. “You were the youngest Chief Astrogator in the Explorer program and now you’re now the youngest Captain in the Explorer Program,” Mituti said. “And now I’m the youngest Chief Astrogator. How does it feel being the youngest?”
“It feels like a big challenge,” Kyle replied. “But it also feels like a challenge I know I can meet.”
“But I’ve never even been an Assistant Chief. I’ve hardly even been just a plain old astrogator.”
“I’ve never been a First Officer. But I’m now a Captain because lots of important people think I’m good enough to do it, and I think they’re right,” Kyle said confidently. But Kyle’s thought was ‘at least I hope they’re right.’ “I think you can do the same.”         
“Since you were my teacher and my mentor and taught me so much on the Sooloo.”
“As Commodore Hanson has told both of us, if we do what we know then the chances are excellent we’re going to be successful.” Commodore Hanson was a lead teacher at the Space Academy. “It doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed to be successful; it means if we work hard on the right things, meaning the things we know and need to know, we’ll succeed for sure.”
“Thank you, Kyle. You’re always a big help to me. I wouldn’t have taken this job if you weren’t my Captain. Now, I’ve got my first interview to do.”
Mituti turned and left the room leaving Kyle sitting in his chair hoping that what he had just said made sense and was something that actually helped his young Chief Astrogator. ‘But he’s not that young,’ Kyle thought. ‘He’s eight months older than I am. This being a Captain is getting more and more complicated and the crew isn’t even on the ship yet.’
Mituti went to the interview room and logged into the computer for his interview with Lieutenant Manuel Perez, who was an assistant astrogator on the Edwin Hubbell. Manuel was fourteen and was from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Mituti had been impressed with Manuel’s references and progress reports. Arthur Reis, the Chief Astrogator, wrote a glowing reference, as did Captain Scott Kenyon. He also received good references from the Chief Operations Officer and the First officer.
The interview went smoothly and ended with Mituti feeling good about how he had handled the process. He also felt good about Manuel, who had a long row of positive marks on Mituti’s interview checklist.
His second interview was decent, but not good enough to beat out Manuel. Ensign Carter Bronson was one of the transfers initiated by Space Fleet personnel. The transfer lists were created by Explorer Personnel clerks, but they worked in the Space Fleet office.
Carter Bronson was twelve and had served on the SS Stephen Hawking commanded by Frank Worsley. Mituti enjoyed the live interview he had with Carter more than the virtual interview with Manuel. That didn’t mean that he liked Carter more than Manuel, however.
Manuel was going to be his pick because he was more experienced and showed more maturity, mainly because he was two years older. He did want Carter to be assigned to Navigation, however, as an assistant astrogator. He would also see that Carter was trained as a shuttle pilot, which had not happened on the Hawking. Manuel had been trained as a pilot on the Hubbell.
<Hal’s Office>
“It looks like you survived the interviews,” Kyle noted as they sat in a pair of chairs in front of Hal’s desk.
“I had two good guys to interview,” Mituti said. “The tough part was who to pick, but I think I picked the right guy.”
“I know you picked the right guy,” Kyle said emphatically. “You did a great job.”
“Thanks. I’m gonna contact him with the good news. But I’ve got two problems to deal with first.”
“I’m pretty sure I know what they are but hit me with them.”
“First, how do I tell Carter that I picked Manuel for the position?”
“By telling him the truth. And then tell him you still want him as an assistant astrogator. After that it’s all on him.”
“You make it sound easy,” Mituti said.
“It is, once you get the hang of it,” Kyle said with a confidence he didn’t always feel. “And I’ll save you from asking about problem number two by telling you that Hal will be talking to Captain Kenyon of the Hubbell about getting Manuel to the Heinlein. Those two will get it done, I’m sure.”
When Mituti talked to Carter about his decision, Carter said he understood. He thanked Mituti for considering him for the position and told him he was looking forward to being on the crew of a new ship. Mituti breathed a sigh of relief after the conversation. It had gone much better than expected.
After the two interviews and his talk with Kyle, Mituti had a growing feeling of confidence in his ability to tackle his new job. From the time he had joined the crew of the Soloo, Kyle had been a huge influence in his life. Mituti’s feelings about Kyle were that he was the best Chief Astrogator in the Explorer fleet and was now going to be the best Captain in the fleet. Mituti had a huge case of hero worship.
After Mituti left, Kyle contemplated their session. He thought he had said the right things, but there was no way to be sure. ‘I guess time will tell on that one,’ Kyle thought. ‘I think a lot of Mituti; he has fantastic potential. That potential, along with his hard work and outgoing personality is why I know I picked the right person to be my Chief of Navigation. His choice of Manuel as his assistant chief was the right choice for him.’ Kyle closed his eyes and told himself he was grateful for the position he was given and was willing to do whatever it took for him to be worthy of the position. Logan was the only Senior Officer who hadn’t reported in with his choice of assistant. He was another young officer who was full of potential and ready to prove himself. Even though he had been the Chief Science Officer on the Olympic, Kyle felt that he had only begun to develop that potential. Kyle felt ready to help him get there. As he waited for Logan, Kyle began to feel better about himself and the job he was doing.
<Lieutenant Logan Wilson, Chief Science Officer>
Logan was at a bit of a disadvantage compared to the other senior officers when it came to conducting interviews. He had not had the training in interview technique that the other officers had received from Hal and from Lieutenant Robert Criswell, who taught leadership classes at the Space Academy. Criswell and Hal did give Logan a crash course and provided him with an outline. Logan finished his lesson with two mock interviews. One was Kyle and the other was Lieutenant Commander Robert Pickens, who was the aide in charge of Explorer Program office operations for the Explorer High Command. He made no secret of letting people know that his title was a fancy way of saying bureaucrat.
Logan would be interviewing two candidates Kyle and Hal had picked out. They had Logan approve of their choices before letting him loose on the candidates. Both interviews would be live. The first candidate was Ensign Javier Diaz. Diaz was a Space Fleet personnel transfer from the SS Victorious commanded by Captain Dylan Beaumont. Javier served in the Science Department on the Victorious and received good reviews from Lieutenant Woo, the Science Chief, and from Captain Beaumont.
Kyle told Logan that Ronnie Gordon had served on the Victorious and Diaz had been a shipmate of his. Logan told Kyle he would ask Ronnie for his take on Diaz after their last interviews. That was exactly the reaction Kyle had been counting on from his new Science Chief.
The other candidate was intriguing. His name was Tommy Harper, who happened to be Kyle’s brother-in-law. Tommy was ten and was Danny’s younger brother. He had run away from home and stowed away on the Sooloo to get away from a physically and psychologically abusive father and to be with his older brother whom he worshipped.
<Hal’s Office>
Kyle had a quick chat with Logan before the interview was scheduled to begin. “Please don’t think you have to show Tommy any favoritism because of his relationship with me. Hal and I both believe he is one of the top two candidates for the position. We sent the information to Admirals Crusoe and Bowman and they concurred.” Dave Bowman was currently not on Earth. He was the Explorer Program liaison to the two Earhart class ships undergoing trials and was on the Earhart.
“It is important that you pick the assistant chief you want to work with and not the one you think I want. After all, you’re the one who has to work with him, not me. If you need any help with your decision after you finish the interviews, take them to Hal. Even though the choice is yours, I’m not the one to give you advice since I’m not sure I can give you objective advice. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Perfectly,” Logan replied. “And thanks for being open and honest with me.” Everything that he had experienced since signing on with the Heinlein convinced Logan more and more that he had made the right choice of ship.
“I’m going to let you talk to Hal about Tommy’s abilities and credentials. Good luck with your interviews. I think they’re going to go very smoothly for you.”
Kyle left Hal’s office and Hal, who had been waiting outside the door, entered. Logan learned from Hal that Tommy was an outgoing, creative boy and was not afraid to do whatever it took to solve a problem, whether it was a personal one or one having to do with an assigned task. That was when Logan learned about Tommy stowing away on the Sooloo, which was not an easy thing to do on a starship. “Although it would be hard to convince Tommy or the Blackwell-Rivers twins of that,” Hal chuckled. Logan made a mental note to find out about the twins later.
“Anyway, Tommy is an acting ensign because of his age. But we have confirmed from Admirals Robinson and Mirah that he has met all the qualifications needed for the position. The only possible issue is that he pass the Ensign’s test with a 92 or higher and make his rank official when he turns eleven, which is in February. Danny, Kyle, and I all think highly of Tommy and don’t think that would be a problem, especially with the motivation that his job becomes permanent when his rank loses its temporary status.”
Logan nodded and asked a few questions to make sure he understood everything he needed to know about Tommy. Once he had his questions answered he left for the meeting room and to conduct his interviews.
<Space Fleet Headquarters, D Wing, Conference Room 3>
Logan thought his interview with Javier went smoothly. His crash course in conducting interviews plus having a written outline helped, as did his writing a couple of key words of Javier’s along with his own key thoughts during the interview.
Javier’s interview followed the outline to near perfection. Javier answered each question straightforwardly. Javier was an experienced science officer and knew his stuff. What Logan noted along the way, however, was that he was very much into the routine of what the science department did and not so much into the creativity the position allowed. Logan wrote in his notes to ask Ronnie about this aspect of Javier’s performance.
Logan’s interview with Tommy was much different than Javier’s. Tommy was an impressive boy both physically and intellectually.  Logan compared him to his nine-year-old twin brothers who he knew were average size for their age and estimated that Tommy was bigger than the average ten-year-old. Later research proved that to be true. And like his brother Danny, Tommy was a good-looking kid.
What also impressed Logan was the creative slant Tommy gave to a couple of the interview questions. Each interview had questions specifically formulated to the department the candidate was being interviewed for. A couple of the science questions had a standard answer but allowed for a creative answer as well. Javier did an excellent job presenting the standard answer, but Tommy’s answers often took a creative turn.
Logan later learned from Danny that Tommy and Kyle often played games that required creative solutions to win. “Those two have amazing minds,” Danny told Logan. “I didn’t know how smart Tommy was until he snuck on to the Sooloo. Kyle wins around fifty-five percent of the games, but not by much. A lot of that is Kyle’s age and experience. I think Tommy is narrowing the gap, however.”
After the interview Logan found himself leaning in favor of Tommy, despite his age. Before making his final decision, however, he wanted to talk to Ronnie about his take on Javier.
<Hal’s Office>
“How did your interviews go, rookie?” Ronnie chuckled when Logan entered Hal’s office.
“Hey, you’re a rookie, too,” Logan retorted.
“I conducted interviews on the Victorious.” Ronnie pointed out. “What did you want to ask me about?” Logan had sent a text to Ronnie’s communicator asking for a meeting in Hal’s office. Hal was sitting quietly at his desk, ready to give his advice if asked.
Logan gave Ronnie and Hal his impressions of Javier Diaz. “Since you served with him I was wondering if there was anything you could tell me that might help me with my decision.”  It was Logan’s first day on his new job and picking his assistant chief would be his first big decision. He desperately wanted to do everything right and not fuck anything up.
“I agree with Logan’s analysis,” Ronnie said. “From what I saw of him, Javier is quite bright, which I guess is true of just about all of the Explorers, but he tends to stick with the safe path. I would describe him as being intellectually lazy. No, make that intellectually timid. He’s afraid to make a wrong decision, so he takes the safe way out.”
“I think that with the kinds of things that can happen in space, you think about the whole problem and come up with some theories. It’s up to me and my assistant to lead the way and I just don’t feel comfortable with Javier being the choice to do that.”
“From what I’ve seen of Tommy around Casa Robinson, Tommy has a very active mind,” Ronnie said.
“Plus, he’s not afraid to take risks,” Hal added. “His stealing a ride on a shuttle and stowing away on the Sooloo highlights that.”
“So, even though he’s really young, I’m gonna pick Tommy as my Chief Assistant Science Officer. I mean everybody’s talking about how young our Captain is, so why not?” Logan thought for a moment, and then said, “But he has to get a 92 on his Ensign exam, right?”
Hal nodded, fighting a grin.
“It would be rough on everybody if he didn’t make it. I’m thinking maybe I should make Javier my Assistant and turn Tommy loose on the science computers and in the lab.”
“No worries there,” Hal said. “I wouldn’t be sitting here listening to you and Ronnie if I didn’t know something you didn’t. Tommy took the exam yesterday at the Academy.” He paused, waiting for the big question.
He only had to wait for a couple of seconds. “How did he do?”
“He struggled to a…um…96.”
“Holy crap…oops, sorry sir.”
“I’ve heard it before.”
“That’s completely awesome. Then Tommy’s my pick.” Logan paused a moment and then said, “Now I gotta give Javier the news.”
“If it helps you any, I can assure you that Javier will be a great member of your science team,” Ronnie assured Logan. “You won’t get any big ideas from him, but you will get some good solid research that will help everyone on the team.”
“That’s good to hear, but I gotta wonder what he’ll think of losing out to an eleven-year-old still attending the Academy.”
“Well, Javier is twelve and a good kid. I think he’ll be fine.”
Logan then called Javier and asked him to come to Hal’s office. When he told Javier he had chosen Tommy Harper to be his Assistant Chief, Javier took the news well. “Tommy and I talked in the waiting area before you started the interviews. He’s really smart and has lots of great ideas about things to do. I won’t mind work under him…or under you. Thanks for the opportunity to apply for the position. I was one of only two who got interviewed, and that means a lot to me. Tommy is going to be a great Science Chief. I promise I’ll do my best at whatever he asks me to do.”
“Please go to the right when you leave the office,” Hal instructed Javier.
“It’s because Tommy will be coming from the other direction. But don’t worry. I’ll let you guys give him the good news. I won’t say a thing if I happen to see him.”
Javier shook Logan’s hand and then did the same with Hal. While he didn’t leave Hal’s office with a smile on his face, he did leave with an erect stance that showed his pride.
“He’s a great kid,” Hal told Logan. “Make sure you give him a lot of responsibility. While it might not happen in science, I think he’s someone who is going to move up the ladder.”
Logan then asked Tommy to come to Hal’s office. Tommy came in not sure if being the second one asked to come to Hal’s office was good or bad. He quickly found out it was a good thing.
“I’m the Assistant Science Chief? Really? Wow, that is so awesome. Thank you,” Tommy burbled with youthful enthusiasm when he was told the news.
“No, thank you for doing such a great job at the Academy, as a temporary Ensign doing everything you were asked to do. You’ve earned your promotion,” Hal said.
"You’ve taken your Ensign exam, right?" Logan asked, even though he knew the answer.
"Yes, I took it yesterday, but I haven't seen the results yet," Tommy replied.
"Let's see if I have access to see them." Logan pulled up the results, even though he already knew Tommy’s score. "Oh my, that's not good. Not good at all."
Tommy got nervous and didn't catch the wry smirk on Logan's face. "I didn't fail, did I?" Tommy could feel tears welling up. He had a great deal of self-confidence and thought he had nailed the exam when he walked out of the testing room.
Logan couldn't hold it in any longer, "No, you didn't fail, you scored much higher than I did, and I thought I had a high score." He displayed the 96 score on his communicator screen. Tommy let out a breath that he hadn't realized he was holding. "Congratulations, ENSIGN Harper!"
Even though he knew it was a little kid move, Tommy stepped in and gave Logan a quick hug. “I’m gonna really work at being the best Assistant Science Officer I can be,” he said after ending the hug.
Then Tommy looked up at Logan with a wry grin of his own. “What was your score on the Ensign test?”
“I had a 95, so at least you had a tough score to beat. And when the time comes, you’ll need to beat a 96 on your Lieutenant’s exam.”
“Piece of cake,” Tommy grinned. He then came to attention before leaving the office.
“You made a great choice,” Hal said. “That kid’s going somewhere. His lack of experience will be a challenge for you at times, but I think you’ll do a great job teaching him. He will be a fantastic assistant for you and a budding leader on the Heinlein.”
“I second that. I’ve seen his great personality at the Casa Robinson,” Ronnie said. “He’s ready to put his talent to work.”
“Thanks for the help,” Logan said. “I’m off to give Danny and Kyle the good news.”
He didn’t have to go far since Kyle entered the room before Tommy left.
“Judging by the grin on your face, I’d say you’re the Assistant Science Officer,” Kyle said.
“Yes, I am Uncle Kyle. And now I’ve gotta go tell my big brother the news.”
Before Tommy could get far, Kyle grabbed him and gave him a big hug. “That’s not from your captain; it’s from your uncle.”
“I got it and thanks.” Ronnie left the office with Tommy to watch him give the good news to Danny.
“I think we’ve put together a good group of officers,” Kyle told Hal.
“And tomorrow you and those officers get to have the first meeting with your full crew,” Hal said.
“Well, almost full crew. A couple of Assistants have to be transported to meet the Heinlein.”
“I’ll have that all scheduled out tomorrow. Plus, I’ll be giving out the daily schedule between now and launch day. Tomorrow is when your crew starts on its way to being a crew. That means…”
Kyle held up his hand and Hal stopped there. “It means, tomorrow is when I really become a Captain instead of a paper pusher. And, yes, I feel ready for it, so you don’t have to ask. I will give them all I’ve got.”
“Give ‘em hell, Kyle. Make the day special.” This time Hal gave out the hug as he wrapped his arms around the youngest captain in the Explorer fleet; a captain who was a cocky but scared little eleven-year-old boy when they first met before the Sooloo’s maiden trip. Hal liked to think that he helped Kyle grow up into the young man he was today. And he knew deep in his heart that Kyle was going to make a great captain and that tomorrow he would start down the road of greatness.
Next: Coming Together