Voyagers: SS Robert Heinlein



By Douglas DD

Assisted by Zarek Dragon

Sunday, October 4, 2122.

Commander Kyle Robinson sat in one of the reclining sections of the sectional in the family room. He was the only person in the house who had not gone to bed. His father and mother (he didn’t think of Alicia as his stepmother; she was his mother—end of story) were in bed in the master bedroom. His sons Koji and Duskin were sleeping together in their bedroom. His fifteen-year-old stepbrother, Ronnie, was sleeping in his room. (The same rule applied to Ronnie as applied to his mother; he was his brother). And his husband, Danny, was sleeping in their room. Kyle’s mind was spinning at what seemed like a zillion light years per second.
A few weeks had passed since he had learned, much to his shock, that he had been named Captain of the SS Heinlein. Since then, his life on the Sooloo and on Earth had been one of chaotic preparation for his new position.
The Heinlein was a new ship, one of three in the Earhart Class. They were larger than the Explorer Class ships, carrying a crew of 120 as opposed to the 75 of the Explorer class. The other two ships would be crewed by the female Explorer Program graduates. They were the first ships assigned to the female explorers.
The SS Amelia Earhart was out on its first regular voyage and the SS Sally Ride was almost ready to start its shakedown cruise with its new crew. The SS Robert Heinlein was running its trials flown by the Space Fleet shakedown crew. At the moment it was orbiting Earth making adjustments that were recommended by the crew after the first trial.
Kyle’s thoughts drifted back three weeks to when he had learned of his new position. He had asked Commodore Hal Tietokone how a twelve-year-old commander could be appointed the captain of a new starship without even applying for it. Hal told him it was because no active captains were interested and there had been only one person who applied for the position, and he was deemed unqualified by the admiralty.
“But how did they even know I was interested?” Kyle had asked.
“Kyle, everybody who counted knew you were interested in being a captain and that you wanted to be the youngest captain ever,” Hal had replied. “Think about it, your father knew it. Hell, even Fleet Admiral Mirah knew it. Plus, despite your age, your experience makes you immensely qualified—much more so than most older officers.”
“But I don’t want the position if my father got it for me.”
“Admiral Robinson made no bones about the fact that he had recused himself from the search committee once your name was mentioned. He had nothing to do with your being chosen.”
“Stop with the buts and get to work making yourself the best captain in the Explorer fleet. Remember what I told you when I first offered you the position.”
“Yeah, that it wouldn’t be official until my thirteenth birthday. And boy do I remember that birthday celebration.”
“Exactly. I told you when you officially received your promotion the Admiralty wanted you to be thirteen. We didn't want any more people like former Senator Allen Cooper trying to stir things up about a preteen captain since he had tried to make a big deal out of you being a tween senior officer," Hal said.
Kyle then ended his reminiscence of the discussion with Commodore Tietokone. Hal had been Kyle’s second captain on the Sooloo. And before then, when he was the first officer, he had been Kyle’s mentor, helping the sometimes-troubled tween through his difficulties. Tomorrow, he and Hal would be meeting in Hal’s office in Space Fleet Headquarters.
Kyle shook the memories out of his head. He turned his thoughts to what he was grateful for. He was grateful for his family. That gratitude started with the love and support of his lifelong friend Danny and the protocols of Space Fleet allowing the two twelve-year-olds to marry. Then there were their adopted sons, Koji and Duskin, who brought their playfulness, their brand of humor, their endless curiosity, and their unconditional love into his life. And that was just the start of his gratitude list.
Getting his mind off topic helped slow it down. It was a tactic Kyle often used. His concentration went on to the upcoming week. Tomorrow morning at eight he would be meeting with Hal to go over the schedule for the week as well as the three weeks following it.
After the meeting he and Hal would be meeting with his senior officers. Hal and Admiral Crusoe would be there for the performance of the traditional swearing-in ceremony of the captain and senior officers of a new ship. After the ceremony Kyle would begin the meeting.
The ceremony would normally be performed by Admiral Robinson as the commander of the Explorer Fleet. However, since he was Kyle’s father, he, and Fleet Admiral Mirah agreed that Admiral Crusoe should take charge of the ceremony. Kyle understood the reasoning behind his father stepping into the background.
After the ceremony Crusoe and Hal would leave the conference room and Kyle would take over his first meeting with his senior officers. As the ship’s captain it was his job to appoint all the senior officers. He had already met many of them and those he hadn’t met he got to know during the interview process. Of course, the officers he knew the best had been his crewmates on the Sooloo.
The meeting wouldn’t be his first official dealing with his senior officers since most of them had worked with him on the myriad of tasks facing them before the Heinlein would go out on its first trial operated by its crew. And most of their work had gone into that crew. They spent time interviewing applicants, both those who were finishing their Explorer curriculum at the Academy and those who were currently on other ships and wanted to transfer to a new and much different vessel. So far, they had agreed on just over sixty members of the crew, which meant they still had to pick almost half the contingent. Hal, Admiral Crusoe, and Admiral Robinson had all been big helps in the process.
After the meeting, they would have lunch, and take a shuttle to the Heinlein where they would get their first look at the new ship. The visit would include a tour of the ship conducted by Commodore Lev Kochanski, who was the Project Manager, which placed him in command of the trials. For Kyle and his staff, it would be the first visit to what would soon become their new home.
Before everyone (except Kyle) had retired to their bedrooms, Kyle had asked his father why the swearing in ceremony was taking place in Space Fleet Headquarters instead of on the ship that he and his senior officers would soon be commanding.
“We’re doing it this way so that when you board the Heinlein tomorrow it will be as the ship’s sworn-in officers who will be in command of the ship rather than a group of kids ready to play at being officers,” his father had told him.
“But, Dad…”
“I know, I know, you are more than kids at play, but, as YOU know, when it comes to the Explorer Program, it’s all about perception. Come on board as senior officers, well then by damn, you are senior officers. Come on board as ready to be sworn, then, at least as far as the temporary crew is concerned, you’re just kids getting ready for whatever. You’re dealing with a veteran group of Space Fleet men who have done trial runs of dozens of ships.”
“How did the Earhart and Ride girls do it?”
“The Earhart girls did it the same way you’re going to do it. And it may have been even more important for them considering the perception all too many men in Space Fleet have of females, even in this day and age. The Sally Ride girls have fallen behind a few days because the issues that showed up on the punch list during the ship’s first trial run have taken longer to fix than was anticipated.” 
Kyle prayed that the Heinlein wouldn’t run into similar issues. He decided he would do what a captain should do and ask the commander of the test crew if those issues could come up during the Heinlein’s trials or if they had been fixed in advance.
Kyle took a deep breath. He felt ready for the next day, a day that would be one of the biggest days of his life. He would be more than a ship’s captain in name, mostly dealing with research, paperwork, and what seemed like endless interviews. He would actually be standing in front of his senior officers as a real live active captain. He decided he was ready for bed and in need of a cuddle.
He went upstairs and climbed into bed, scooting under the covers, his naked body tightly hugging the naked body of his true love. He wished he could have Danny with him for his big day, but the protocol said otherwise. Again, he understood, which didn’t mean he liked it.
Kyle’s coming into bed awakened Danny.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked quietly.
“I think I’m ready for tomorrow,” Kyle replied.
“Remember that even though I won’t be with you, I’ll always be with you.”
“It’s been a long time since that’s been any different.” Kyle and Danny shared a long kiss.
“I love you, Kyle,” Danny whispered.
“I love you so much, Danny, that I don’t even know how to say it. I guess I just say the one thing that counts another time. I love you.”
The two boys cuddled tightly and fell into a  deep, relaxing sleep.
Next: Captain of the Heinlein.

End Notes:

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