The launch was a success, but something was amiss with Kyle… Hal confronted him about it.
Robert discussed sitting with Tomo about getting together to discuss Jinzo. Will there be an army of androids?
The majority of the senior staff of the Sooloo were warm in their beds, thankful for the 'downtime' after the excitement of the launch of the Sooloo on her shakedown. The excitement of the day had finally abated enough so that Corey Adams finally drifted off to sleep.
Mere minutes later, a klaxon that none of the crew had ever heard pierced the typical quiet of the ship at that hour of the day. In every stateroom, officers were being roused from their beds. Hal immediately got on his comms to the Bridge. "Jordan, report!"
Jordan seemed flustered, "I don't know, Sir. All of our boards show green. It could be some sort of a computer malfunction but IS reports no problems."
The sound of the klaxon roused Shasho Boyer from his slumber. It only took a minute for him to realize what was happening and he jumped out of bed and started heading to the door to the family's quarters. He had almost made it to the hatch when Brad stopped him.
With puzzlement and a small amount of mirth in his voice, Brad asked, "Shasho? Where are you going?"
"I need to get to Operations and get the new emergency protocols and procedures I wrote this morning. It's finished but hasn't been distributed yet."
"I think it would be best if you put some clothes on. As cute as you are, I don't think our visitors on the Sooloo would appreciate you streaking through the corridors."
Shasho looked down and realized he was still naked. He blushed before running back to his room to pull on his uniform.
Meanwhile, Roger Duncan had arrived in Information Systems and started guiding his staff to analyze the source of the alarm.
Hal and Dave instructed Oliver and Lars to stay in their quarters until one of the senior staff came to get them. Once both boys agreed and promised, Dave and Hal left their quarters heading for the Bridge.
Admiral Robert Crusoe wondered what was actually going on as he awoke, dressed and headed for the Bridge to observe what was happening. He figured that he would see the crew of the Sooloo at their best and that was something he surely didn't want to miss. He had absolutely no doubt that the cause of the problem would be found.
There was controlled pandemonium on the Bridge as officers from each department worked to figure out the cause of the alarm. Hal and Dave coordinated the effort as observers from the other ships sat on the sidelines watching. Admiral Crusoe entered the Bridge and Dave felt he needed to ask...
"ROC, can I speak to you in Hal's ready room?"
Upon entering, Dave didn't even wait an instant before asking, "Sir, with all due respect, I need to ask if this event was planned to see how the crew reacted to an emergency."
Robert looked at Dave and replied, "If it is, they didn't tell me about it."
Dave seemed to be searching Robert's soul and realized that he was telling the truth. Dave apologized for confronting the Admiral as he did and was assured that he'd acted properly. "If I were in your shoes, Dave, I'd have asked the exact same question. You did so respectfully, but even if you hadn't under these circumstances, I'd have ignored any breach in protocol."
Corey Adams had followed Kyle and Danny to the Bridge. He sat along one wall, watching. He wondered why he wasn't totally shitting his pants, but he had confidence in his friends, the senior staff of the Sooloo, to figure things out. He made several notes on his PADD as he watched the events unfold.
Connor and Tom were busy reviewing every system in Engineering. They took the list of systems in the department and each, with an assistant in addition to their sons, started reviewing those systems. Connor started at the top of the list and Tom at the bottom. That way they could check the systems in half the time.
Brad had arrived and was brought up to speed by Roger. He instructed his staff to scan all of the logs, not just the error logs, of the systems in hope that somewhere, something would stand out.
Tensions were high aboard the Sooloo but each and every member of the crew had faith in their leadership and performed their functions flawlessly. Corey had been going from station to station observing, trying to get the big picture of how things were happening when he started to notice a pattern.
Opening a clear document on his PADD he started noting an item from each station that just seemed out of place. After he'd gone from station to station, he found Jinzo and showed him the list. It was at that point that Jinzo realized what had happened.
He took Corey to see Hal and said, "Sir, Cadet Adams may have found the source of the alert."
Hal called Dave over and Jinzo explained, "Sir, there is no emergency other than something that had been overlooked. Not every system on the Sooloo was upgraded. It seems that the systems that had not been upgraded have been overlooked in the security system that has been heavily modified. However, the programmer who wrote the new security system failed to take into account some of the non-critical systems that were not upgraded. "
Dave and Hal were reviewing the data Corey had collected when Brad contacted the Bridge. His explanation matched Jinzo and Corey's assessment almost identically.
"Brad, for the umpteenth time, I need you to go over the new code, line-by-line and find where the 'professionals' on Earth messed up and fix it."
"You did an excellent job, Corey. Even though you hadn't been trained on all of the systems, you looked at them as a whole, and not just as the component parts they are."
Corey blushed at the praise and was about to tell Hal that it was Kyle who told him to look at the big picture when Hal turned away and hit a button on his chair. "Attention all hands, this is the Captain. Stand down from Alert stations, there is no emergency. Those who have tasks to perform have been given their orders. Everyone else not on watch... go back to bed."
Robert made a note on his own PADD, turned and left the Bridge without a word.
In just over an hour, the crew of the Sooloo had identified the source of the problem and a plan to rectify the anomaly had been put into place. Hal and Dave returned to their quarters finding Oliver and Lars asleep in Oliver's bed. Rather than wake them, Hal and Dave retired to their room and went back to sleep.
Under normal conditions, Danny or Kyle could come off a watch, take care of pissing, brushing, flossing, washing and yawning, and then climb into bed without waking up his husband. The shakedown cruise was anything but normal, however.
When Danny entered the master bedroom of their cabin, he wasn't surprised to see that the main lighting was on full. Normally, if one of them was on watch during the wee hours, night illumination was set to 10% so the one coming off watch could see without being a distraction for the sleeper.
Kyle looked up from his book and smiled. "Hey, sweet thing," he grinned. "How was watch?"
"It was four hours long, but I did figure out how to get a starship from Earth to the Perseus arm without ending up in the Sagittarius arm," Danny replied proudly. Danny had been standing watch at the Astrogation table. The new procedure during an off-peak watch would be to have only one person manning both the helm and navigation of the table, but the shakedown procedures called for both stations to be fully covered.
"And it only took me three times, and when the klaxon went off, I thought I did something. I am so looking forward to our fighter drill, at least I'll know what I'm doing. I'm gonna go take care of business." Danny had stripped naked while he and Kyle chatted. Kyle admired his husband's fine-looking ass as it moved out the door.
After Danny returned, he shut the lights completely off and snuggled next to Kyle under the covers. "How is our guest doing?"
"As you know, he got into a bit of a snit to start when he forgot his number one instruction," Kyle replied.
"I know that instruction, 'Remember, Cadet, you think you know everything, but you really don't know shit,'" Danny chuckled.
"Once he returned to reality and started following Jinzo around like a puppy dog he's been more than amazing. I've heard compliments about him from guys all around the ship. Steve's compliment may have been the best."
"And what did the Steverino have to say?"
"Kyle, how are you and Danny going to be able to have a hot piece of ass like Corey sleeping in your quarters for three nights without fucking the shit out of him at least once?" Kyle laughed.
"I admit I expected the two of you to be snuggled naked in bed together."
"Well, we were for a while. We had a nice talk about the priorities he should be setting in his reports; looking at the big picture instead of focusing on details."
"Of course, you were in bed, naked."
"Of course," Kyle smirked.
"I'm going to be thinking of that later when I meet with my fighter pilots, since your new boyfriend is scheduled to be at the meeting and then fly with me. And, I truly can't believe that you two lay naked in bed together and just chatted."
"There was a little bit more going on. After our chat, being horny dudes as we were, it was important that we dealt with our erection problem. And before you ask, it didn't go beyond jerking each other off."
"So, the Senior Officer seduces the poor, innocent Cadet. I see how it works."
Kyle knew that Danny was getting pleasure from teasing him and didn't take the bait. "Since we do have a bit of a history together, I didn't see a problem with it," he said with mock seriousness. "But I didn't think it would be appropriate for me to go any farther than we did, even if we had done it on Earth," he concluded with total seriousness.
"Not being a Senior Officer with so many rules and regulations surrounding me, I would have fucked him," Danny said. "I'm going to be thinking of that later, too."
"Thanks to you, I am now wide awake at this godawful hour of the morning, so how about giving me a demonstration on exactly what you would have done to the poor Cadet." Danny was more than happy to do so.
As the boys filled one classroom, Ali watched. All of the seats were taken and some of the boys had to stand. Once all of them were there, Ali started, "Boys, or should I say young men, today will only be a half day. We will be in classes until lunch, then when we break for lunch, you will go as you always have, and after lunch, you will be free to do whatever, with one exception. During the Shakedown Cruise, the holodecks are off limits, but there is a new lounge for you boys, which I am aware some of you have already enjoyed."
"There goes our nakey swimming," Koji whined.
"Only during the Shakedown Cruise," Ali chuckled. "When we launch to continue our mission, I understand that it will be reinstated, that is, unless you boys don't want to."
"No way," Tomo exclaimed, "we enjoy the feeling of freedom it gives us."
Ali chuckled, "Somehow, I knew that would be the answer."
"Ali, who is that seated beside you?" Akage inquired.
"I'm glad you asked that," Ali responded. "You remember how we split the class before, and Jace or Kyle taught the older boys? Well, Space Fleet believes they will be too busy with the changes that were made and assigned us a new teacher. Class, I would like for you to meet Aldrich Simon."
"You may call me Richie," Aldrich stated.
"Richie will be taking the boys who are ten or older to their classroom."
With that, Juro, Tomo, Sukotto, Shasho and Drake made their way to the door. Richie led them to the other classroom.
Once in the second classroom, Richie stated, "Ali will be telling the boys in his class basically the same thing. From now until lunch, you will be testing, but this isn't a test so much as it is an assessment of what you know. You cannot fail this test and there will be no grade given for it. Drake, I believe you are the only new student in this class, so this will help me know where I can help you the most. Now, if each of you will turn on your systems, you may begin the assessment. I will be walking around, seeing if anyone needs assistance. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at that time."
The boys did as they were instructed and began their assessment.
Robert stood next to Kyle at the astrogation table where Kyle had spent the last ten minutes explaining the differences between the old and the new tables.
"The two best changes are having the helm in a different seat so a navigator can be assigned to a regular watch and that we can trust the automatic course adjustments," Kyle explained to ROC. Kyle wasn't sure whether he believed that, but at the moment he had no reason not to recite the Space Fleet line.
"Ahhh… but are they really trustworthy?" the Admiral inquired.
Kyle saw the question as an opening. After the chat he had with Robert, Kyle was certain he could trust him. Before he said anything, he wanted to see how the Admiral reacted to his statement.
"We won't know until we actually do an FTL run, which will be on our return to Earth. I guess we could trust the old ones too, we just didn't know if they would be accurate in certain cases. What we did know was how far off they would be and adjust for it. I finally quit using the auto correct and programmed a lot of my own adjustments. For example…" Kyle pulled out his PADD and explained how he figured his own adjustments in advance.
Robert pointed to the stuffed penguin sitting on the table and said, "If I told you I wanted to get from here to the star Megrez, which you have become connected to, what would be your fastest route?"
Robert expected Kyle to sit at the computer station on the table, pull up tables, and punch in coordinates. Instead, Kyle surprised him by inviting him to sit at the station and calculate a route.
"I'm still pretty rusty," Robert said as he sat at the station.
"Using your brain oils it up and gets it working faster," Kyle grinned.
"What are you going to do, stand behind me and critique my work like you do Will's?"
"I have Will make entries because he's still learning and I'm behind him to teach him. I have something different in mind." Robert had intentionally asked for this meeting with Kyle for a time when Will would not be on the Bridge so that everything they said and did would be between just the two of them.
Robert shrugged and sat at the station. He started the process of looking up his data while Kyle pulled a book off a shelf above the table, leafed through it quickly and opened it to a page. He perused it for a minute or so and replaced it on the shelf. He then sat in a chair along the forward bulkhead and closed his eyes. Even though Kyle's action confused him, Robert went busily to work entering his calculations. He figured Jordan Rivers, who had the conn, would wake Kyle up if he deemed it necessary. Jordan seemed happy to ignore his napping officer.
Robert could tell he was rusty, but as he moved along the process became quicker. The calculations for getting to Megrez were more complex than he thought they would be but were within his capabilities.
He was about to enter his information into the astrogation table, when Kyle surprised him by getting out of his chair and took a couple of steps over to the table. Robert stopped what he was doing and observed Kyle lighting up a station and quickly typing in data. Robert could see the table light up, which meant it had a routing entered into it. He was about to see what it was when Kyle removed it from the table readout.
"I thought you were napping," Robert chuckled.
"I'll explain as soon as you've finished," Kyle said matter-of-factly. Jordan looked over to Kyle and grinned—he knew exactly what the Chief Astrogator was up to.
About five minutes later Robert entered his data and lit up the table. Kyle came over and looked at the projected route to Megrez. "That's a really good route," Kyle said. "Your brain isn't as rusty as you thought it was."
"Let's see what you came up with."
Kyle called up his calculation. He, Robert and Jordan looked at Kyle's routing. Even with his limited astrogation skills, Jordan could see that Kyle had come up with a quicker routing.
"You just sat in a chair and came up with that?" Robert asked incredulously.
"I think our Astrogator had a little bit of fun at your expense, Sir," Jordan grinned.
"It helped that we had been there before," Kyle said, somewhat flustered. "I wasn't trying to show Admiral Crusoe up, I just wanted to show him sometimes there were different ways of going straight through space." Kyle pointed to a section of the table. "And it helped that I calculated that zigging around those two stars would be longer but would also be quicker. Plus, I took into account that line seven of the computer data wasn't entirely accurate and I entered in the necessary adjustment. I had given Space Fleet Astrogation Services my corrections to line seven, but they insisted I was the one misplacing the decimal, not the Space Fleet data base."
"Obviously your routing worked better than the standard one. If you'll send me the information you have, I'll have a chat with the geniuses at the Service desk."
"Thanks. They will get it figured out eventually. They're not idiots, they just like to be careful before making changes."
"It probably didn't help that the correction came from a twelve-year-old." Robert placed his hand on Kyle's shoulder. "You're something else, Commander Robinson. No wonder Will thinks you are totally amazing. I always thought I was good, but you are by far the superior Astrogator in my book. You might be the best I've seen."
"Thanks, but we'll see what happens when we go back into deep space. From what I've heard so far, I'm going to be calculating at least one route that nobody has calculated before. Astrogation Services is working on it but…"
"…but you'll be quintuple checking it," Robert laughed. "The fact that you're the Astrogator just might be why the Sooloo was chosen for that one."
Damn, I never thought about it that way, Kyle thought. Talk about having pressure put on me—fuck, that feels like a few tons of pressure.
"Thanks," Kyle said. "But any good Astrogator can figure this out." I hope.
Jinzo and Corey walked into Engineering ten minutes before their watch was to begin. Connor met them, "Corey, again, you will be pulling only a partial watch here. The last half of your watch, you will be with Danny Robinson."
"Any idea of what we will be doing?" Corey was excited and hopeful.
Jinzo answered, "They are scheduled to take the fighters out for target practice. You will be riding with Danny, and I will be riding with Juju."
"Will I get to shoot?" Corey questioned.
"I do not know," Jinzo responded, "you will need to ask Danny."
"So, what will we be doing here?"
"We will be monitoring the engine cores performance. If anything doesn't seem right, we are to inform the Chief of Engineering, that would be Connor, and he will either ask us to take care of it or assign someone more trained."
Corey asked, "More trained than you? I thought you were an android."
"I am," Jinzo replied, "and I have the basic knowledge of every position on the ship, but I was not trained to do everything."
"Wow, I never even considered that a possibility. At least you don't think you know everything, and you have a big…"
"About that," Jinzo was about to come clean, " my opsola didn't really…"
Juro interrupted, "appreciate Jinzo telling you how big he was. We think that should have been kept personal."
"Opsola?" Jinzo looked puzzled.
Juro pulled Jinzo a distance from Corey, "I thought about it, and I don't see that you really lied. You were having a little fun and didn't do any harm. As long as you don't lie when it matters, I guess I am fine with it."
"I love you, Opsola," Jinzo gave Juro a hug. "Now, I better get back to my Cadet so I can teach him some things about Engineering."
Tom Abernathy and Christian Abernathy had enjoyed a very quiet day in Medical. The fact that they are pretty much 'on-duty' 24/7 afforded them a fairly lax 'schedule.' If there was work to be done, they'd do it, but when there wasn't, they were pretty much left to their own devices, provided all of the normal functions of Medical were taken care of.
When they returned from their dinner break, they left the HMH to 'man' the medical bay and retired to their room which was adjacent to the clinic. This would allow them to be on call at a moment's notice. They were cuddled up on their bed, just being together.
Dr. Tom turned to his boyfriend and stared into his eyes. This had the effect of making Christian smile, then laugh... after what seemed like minutes, Christian let out a laugh then asked, "What?"
Tom was silent for a few moments before replying, "I've just been thinking of what it would be like to wake up to you every morning."
Again, Christian chuckled, "You've been waking up to me every morning for the past couple of months."
Tom shook his head, "I've been waking up to my boyfriend for the past couple of months." He then reached under his pillow and pulled out a box. He handed it to Christian and said, "I would rather wake up every morning to my husband. Christian, would you make me the happiest doctor in Space Fleet and do me the honor of marrying me?"
Christian opened the box and saw the ring. His emotions getting the best of him, rendering him mute. All he could do was nod his head, barely able to see his fiancé through his tears.
What transpired afterward is something that should remain between the two of them.
Thirty-minutes later, Christian contacted his twin on the comms and gave him the news.
Danny was pleased that all his pilots had arrived at the meeting at least ten minutes early. He was convinced that he had the best crew of pilots in the Explorer fleet.
"And it's not just a wild ass thought," he told Corey when they breakfasted together much earlier in the officers' mess. "I trained all of the currently active fighter pilots, so I know who's good."
"You mean some of them aren't good?" Corey asked.
"I guess, I didn't say that as well as I could. Not a single pilot graduated from training who I considered to be less than ace level. It's just that some of them go beyond that to being kickass aces, which describes all five of my pilots except for Juju."
"I thought Juju was your number two dude?"
"Oh, he is that and more. The thing with Juju is that he is so far beyond a kickass ace that they haven't invented a word to describe him yet."
Which probably puts Danny so far above kickass ace they don't need to invent a word to describe him because everybody just KNOWS how good he is without any words, Corey thought.
"Speaking of kickass, everybody said you kicked ass when the alarms went off last night. Great job keeping your cool and taking care of business. You're going to totally kick ass when you become a full-time cadet at the Academy—I have no doubt about that."
"Thanks, but all I did was think the way Kyle told me to think."
"True, but if you didn't keep your cool, that wouldn't have happened. Just the fact that you got yourself involved in the problem and looked for a solution instead of just sitting on your ass like some scared little know nothing cadet says it all. Now, are you all set for your next adventure?" Danny asked.
"You said this would be close to battle conditions, right?"
"Once I activate the drones, it will be pretty real, except what they shoot at us are dummy lasers. But each hit will be recorded and it's possible for a fighter to be 'disabled', which means the pilot will stop and have to drift until the drill is over."
"And I better hang on tight," Corey said, somewhat awestruck by it all.
"We're going to shoot at a couple of mini-asteroids and I'm going to give you the opportunity to fire off some shots."
"Me? For real?"
"Yes, you for real. But I warn you, hitting little bits of rock is tougher than it looks." Danny gave Corey a quick illustrated lesson on how his firing mechanism worked.
"I'll be ready," Corey said confidently. In his mind he saw himself blasting an asteroid into a pile of pebbles.
And now that Corey sat in the small lounge, he was working hard to put a name to each pilot. One thing he noted is that all of them were handsome or cute or sexy or something that appealed to him. He thought about how just a couple of months ago those thoughts would have scared the shit out of him; but now they seemed perfectly normal. He thought Juju, Shawndrome and Red were totally cute, while Blue Devil and Ace were handsome and sexy. The cutie who stood out for him was Red. The face of Gordy Jenkins flashed by him quickly, reminding him of who his true crush was.
Corey's thoughts were interrupted by Danny starting the meeting. Danny treated the meeting the way he would a real pre-battle briefing. He went over their starting formation, asked the pilots about some of the other formations they might be ordered to get into and informed them of the capabilities of the drones.
"Okay, guys, you're the best. Now you get to go out and show that fancy ass admiral just how good you actually are so he can brag about you when he gets back to Earth." That elicited a cheer from his pilots. They grabbed their flight equipment and headed for the bay where the fighters were parked. He was pleased to see that Jesse Gross was the crewman on duty. He was the best and had already dealt with a fighter launch when Juju led the squadron to welcome the Rafael.
Once each pilot was strapped into his fighter, Jessie opened the hatch. On Danny's order, the pilots went through their preflight routine and then started their engines. Unlike the shuttles, the fighters were kept ready to go almost immediately. The Shuttle Bay crew had gone through their own training in fighter maintenance. Also, each pilot was required to go through a full checklist at least every other day. The Sooloo pilots interpreted that requirement to read EVERY day.
Shooting at the prechosen orbiting rocks was easy work for the pilots but was necessary. It was the first time they'd fired their weapons in space as a working squadron instead of firing them in the simulator.
Danny ordered them into various formations for each pass of the rocks. A key to each formation was to keep the fighters at different levels so they wouldn't get in the way of each other. When they were in their welcome formation, the fighters had flown at the same level, but now they were in battle formations, where it was as important to not fire on each other as it was to fire on the enemy.
Danny had Corey feed him firing information on each pass until Corey could spit it out unprompted, which made Danny confident that Corey was ready to shoot. On the third to last pass, Danny placed Corey's firing mechanism on unarmed mode, meaning that Corey would be firing the weapons. They would not be armed, but their laser light would be visible, and his hit would be registered.
When Danny gave Corey the order to fire, the Cadet checked his firing screen, pressed the red button on his mechanism and fired away, making one direct hit. "Great, job, Corey. You seem to be a natural at this. Okay, next pass is fire at will. It will be entirely up to you when to fire."
Corey knew that the target on his screen was lit up when Danny had ordered him to fire. This time he had to watch for it to light up and be ready to fire. When the time came, his timing was good, and he scored two glancing hits. He knew on his third and last pass his weapon would be live, and so would everyone else's.
Danny announced the formation, reminded everyone to make sure their weapons were live, and led his squadron back around to the rock. Corey found his target and set it on the screen like Danny had showed him at breakfast. He knew once he did that his job was to watch the screen and not the target and when the target lit up, he would fire. When the screen lit up his finger was millimeters from the red button. He pressed it and let out a screech when he saw a chunk of rock get broken from the small asteroid's surface. He let out an uncontrolled yelp and quickly apologized.
"It's all good," Danny told him. "Being excited about a good shot is part of the deal." As they turned away from the asteroid, they could see more bits being blown off it by the trailing fighters.
"Remember, the protocol going after a moving target is much different. While radar helps predict where the target is going, anything can happen at any time, which means there is a lot more to eyeing the target than you do when the target is stationary or moving in a predictable path."
Corey knew he wouldn't get a chance at shooting a drone but was happy with what he had accomplished shooting at the big rock. Every time he thought he couldn't have more fun than he'd been having, he was proved wrong.
Now came the tough part of the drills, battling with moving targets. The cargo transport Eugene Cernan had carried forty target drones to the asteroid belt. Captain Sally Royer and her crew placed the inactive drones into orbit around one of the larger asteroids. The drones were inactive and ready to be assigned to battle for each ships' fighters on its shakedown cruise. Space Fleet felt it was less of a hassle to transport all the drones to the asteroid belt than go through the hassle of loading drones on a starship that was already running short on space.
The Chief Fighter Pilot of each ship was given a remote programmed to activate the drones assigned to his ship. As soon as Danny's squadron was in proper formation, Danny activated the Sooloo's drones and the fun began. It was like playing a live 3-D videogame, only much more serious. Someday the pilots' lives could hinge on how well they did in the drill and what they learned from their mistakes.
Danny was now in his element as he led his squadron from the Endou against the drones. The drones, which were close to the size of a fighter, were programmed to fly in formations and fly individually. They were capable of responding to changing conditions. While they didn't fire live ammunition, each of their laser hits were recorded and it was possible for the drone's program to declare one of the fighters "disabled." Once disabled, the fighter drifted until the Chief Fighter Pilot reactivated their engines.
Corey watched in awe as the fighters chased drones, the hits with their blank ammunition often looked like realistic explosions. Corey remembered how in one scrimmage the six drones they were chasing scattered in four directions and the way Danny reacted by instantly changing formations. The fighters moved quickly, but as soon as they were in position one of the groups split again; Danny had called his formation with that possibility in mind. His fighters quickly took out four of the six drones and disabled the other two, with the loss of only one fighter when the Onaga took a direct hit.
When the drill finally ended, the Sooloo's fighters had scored a decisive victory. Danny used his remote to activate the disabled drones and command them to return to their orbits. He also activated Shawn's fighter and the six fighters flew in formation back to their starship.
After returning to the Sooloo, Danny had a quick debriefing in the shuttle lounge. "I think we need to do a quick debriefing before we forget shit, and then it's snack time, with a special snack made for us by our wonderful head chef. Anyway, excellent job guys. We seriously kicked the Robodronoids' ass."
"Robodronoids? Who are they?" Red asked.
"I had to call them something, and that makes them sound like they were being piloted by an evil alien race."
"Works for me," Juju grinned.
"I know I didn't do an excellent job since my fighter got destroyed," Shawn lamented.
"You did great Shawn, and now you can work up to excellent by telling us how you got clobbered by those evil Robodronoids."
"Well, you told us to go into formation Chase 15. Since I was Fighter 15, that meant I should split from the formation and chase the drone farthest to my starboard side, which I did," Shawn reported.
"Great job so far. Then what happened?" Danny urged.
"The drone angled down." Shawn was referring to his down, since directions in space were relative. "I followed after him, which put me behind Ace, who didn't know I was there. He tapped my port wing, which caused the battle program to slow me down and moved me into the patch of the fire from the drone. They hit me dead on and I was toast."
"What did you do wrong?"
"When I dropped down to chase the drone, I didn't radio that I was dropping to continue the chase. I thought Ace would know that since we were in Chase 15, that was what I could do."
"Anybody want to say what Shawndrome should have done?"
Danny wasn't surprised when Shawn's hand went up first. "Yeah, me. I shouldn't have been thinking, I should have been following the rules of the formation, which said if we had to drop, we needed to say so on the radio to keep from being hit by friendly fire."
"Which of our rules did Shawn forget?"
"He forgot that we aren't supposed to think," Billy "Blue Devil" volunteered. "He forgot that thinking is dangerous, that we should 'do what we know' and should follow proto… whatever."
Protocol, Corey thought as Red said, "Protocol."
"That's it. Blue Devil said it perfectly," Danny stated. "Now we can all remember why it's so important to call out any moves we make that aren't part of the basic formation. And we know from our simulator drills that those moves are going to happen a lot. And now it's time to eat."
The pilots were grateful that Danny was a kid just like them, which meant he could hit starvation mode quickly, just like they did, and as a result he was not going to talk their asses off.
"What did Randy cook up for us?" Shawn asked.
"BLT's with avocado."
Before anyone could move, Billy was out of his chair and heading out the door. "Follow me, because I guarantee I'm going to be first in line."
Tom Kohl was going over the daily reports before turning them in to Connor. "Juro and Tomo really stepped up their game since we are missing an officer with Andy Taylor's transfer."
Connor chuckled, "You know he hates being called Andy, but yeah. Juro and Tomo have been a really big help. And having Jinzo and Corey has been a godsend. I feel like we’ve been hogging them."
"Sure, they've only worked half watches here so they could go elsewhere, but we have had them the most," Tom confirmed. "So, any word on when we will be getting our new officer?"
Connor pulled up the profile, "Ensign Hardin Lukane, he graduated in December with the other cadets, but then was one of the volunteers for some special engineering training with the Darastixians, so he will be joining us shortly after we return to Earth. The others will be serving on the Darastix."
"Don't tell my husband this, but Hardin gives me a hard on," Tom chuckled.
Connor giggled, "There is nothing wrong with that as long as you don't act. Aiden said almost the same thing, and I thought it. The boy IS very cute."
"Kyle might be upset that he's no longer the youngest officer on the ship, but he is still the youngest Senior Officer."
"We won't tell him that Hardin is younger. He'll just have to find that out for himself," Connor advised. "And besides, technically, Jinzo is the youngest officer. He's not even three months old." Tom laughed and nodded his head.
Robert had just filed his daily report on the shakedown with Space Fleet and was going to go to bed earlier than usual, especially since his previous night had been interrupted by the alert. He had told Space Fleet how impressed he was at the handling of the anomaly and called into focus the fact that it was Corey Adams, a mere cadet... not even a cadet yet having not gone to the academy, who figured out the big picture.
His thoughts turned then to his own children. He couldn't express in words how proud he was of Will. The boy had a head on his shoulders and knew how to use it. His husband and son just seem to complete him. His thoughts turned then to his younger son... a boy he'd never met before his accident.
As if on cue, his comms rang, indicating a call from Earth. When he activated the call, the face of Robby, his namesake, filled the screen.
"Hi Dad! Mom said I could call because... well, because I felt I needed to. How is it on the Sooloo?"
"Well, this is a surprise. A very pleasant surprise. Wait a minute... why aren't you in bed? You have school tomorrow."
"I was asleep, Dad. Something woke me and I felt I had to contact you."
"Okay, I was thinking of you just now. Things are going amazingly well here, son. I know you would love being here. So... no promises, but what would you think of going with me on the next shakedown?"