Voyagers Book II

Chapter Nineteen: Let's Debate

A Collaboration of TrueFan, Zarek Dragon and Douglas DD

As the Sooloo and Darastix heads for the distress call…

Earth

Friday, 27 March 2122

Media Suite - Vegas ~ 0600

Senator Cooper"The Explorer Program has strayed so far from its intent that it is time to quit spending tax resources on it," the Senator said in his conclusion to the interview. "The mere fact that the time between stellar destinations has been reduced from months to mere days is reason enough to get those kids home where they belong. But the fact that they have become interstellar daycare centers is the decisive factor. On one ship, a pair of crewmen have even adopted a baby. Really? Bring them all home and let adults raise children, both the ones adopted and these poor misguided ones who think they have what it takes to be a parent."

There was a great deal more to the interview, but the conclusion was that Senator Cooper was a member of the Interstellar Space Committee and attacking the Explorer Program. Space Fleet made sure every crewmember on every ship in the Explorer Program had a chance to watch the interview and any upcoming Press Conference on the matter. They also made sure every crewmember was reminded of being emancipated and having an ability to vote, especially those in the Canadian districts.

Monday, 30 March 2122

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Langara Park ~ 1100

Senatorial Candidate Evan ZellerShortly after Senator Allen Cooper's latest press conference, an upcoming Canadian Candidate for Senator held his own. "Fellow Canadians, I am Evan Zeller, and I am running for the Canadian Senate to replace Allen Cooper. He has been in office for years, unopposed in the elections. I think it is time for some new blood in our government."

"Candidate Zeller," one reporter began, "What is your position on the Explorer Program?"

"Those chosen for it are just as bright, if not brighter than their adult counter parts. It's no different from say a new teen going to college because he is that intelligent. If they are willing to take the risks associated, then I see no reason to forbid them."

Another reporter asked, "And of them getting married?"

"Those that are married, many of them thought were going to be on a thirty-year mission, so I see no harm in it. Just because the mission may be shortened is no reason to void these marriages. As for any who get married after the nature of the mission changed, I don't feel they should be penalized because they waited."

"What about all the adoptions?" yet another reporter prodded, "I mean, a baby?"

"These adoptees may be the next crewmembers. I mean several have already taken the Ensign Exam, and among them, the lowest grade was a 96%. These Darastixian adoptees are truly intelligent. Two of them built an android that surpassed anything we had on Earth. I'm not sure about the adopting of a baby, I would like to know how Senator Cooper found this information out. It's not in any of the current Space Fleet reports, so either he's making it up or doing something illegal. Until I know it is a fact, I will not comment."

"And if you find out it is fact?"

Evan looked serious, "You will find out once I know all the pertinent information."

"Cooper stated that two Draconians stole the plans for the android and that there is a criminal investigation undergoing on the planet. Do you have a comment?"

Evan responded, "I knew this question was going to come up, in fact, I took the liberty of asking Ambassador Shinzen to come up. First, while we have called the planet Draconia for as long as I can remember, in their tongue it is Darastix. Second, one of the princes of the planet was aboard the ship while Jinzo was being built. And now, the Darastixian Ambassador is here to explain how Tomo came up with the plans."

Shinzen Koushi walked up, "Tomo, the main person who built Jinzo, was given a basic plan as a homework assignment. He was taking Advance Science on Darastix and made modifications to the plans which were approved by his instructor. Upon his being adopted, he offered to give the plans back but was told that since he modified them, they were his plans. Next to the Ajagaron engineers, Tomo has one of the greatest engineering minds we have seen."

Evan took the podium again, "As for Senator Cooper, he has his own agenda, and I don't believe it is good for anyone except himself."

"Can we quote you on what you have said about Cooper?"

"Damn right you can quote me. And quote this, if I find that Senator Cooper has committed an illegal act, I promise he will pay for his crime. I am Evan Zeller and I want to be your next Canadian Senator."

"There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, Candidate for Senator Evan Zeller blasting Senator Allen Cooper for perjury or another criminal act."

Space Fleet Headquarters – Vegas ~ 1300

Admiral Rusty McCannAdmiral Rusty McCann decided that it was time for Space Fleet to make a statement. He wished that Fleet Admiral William Mirah were there to do it, but since he was currently on a diplomatic mission, Rusty felt it was his duty.

As all cameras were focused on him, Rusty McCann walked up to the dais. He stood behind the podium and began to speak. "Sixty years ago, Space Fleet was formed. It took some time before we had proper ships for Space Exploration, but that was our goal. I was among the first officers in Space Fleet and held the rank of Ensign back then. While we wore Space Fleet uniforms, but since we were still new on the scene, Earth's Navy and Air Force took us under their wing. We didn't know exactly what we were doing, but we were eager to learn. I have no say over the Explorer Program but am standing here on behalf of Space Fleet. For the record, most of Space Fleet considers it a great success. You may find several who think those officers are just kids, but let me tell you, those kids are smarter than we ever were when we started Space Fleet.

"Fleet Admiral Mirah allows me to read his reports from the ships. One ship is responsible for aligning us with a powerful people, they had a part in protecting those same people when they were attacked by another race, and they had a part in the creation of a planet. It is thanks to the intelligent young men, and they are young men, not kids in my book, that we have improved technology. Have these young men adopted other children? That is affirmative. Have they adopted a baby? Perhaps, but I don't know this as of yet. I will say this, if they did adopt a baby, I know that baby is very lucky, but will not stand in the way of the ship doing what needs to be done.

"Now, there is a rift between Regular Space Fleet and the Explorer Program. This is caused by men who are petty and jealous over these officers and crewmembers. I say that when those men prove they are as worthy as these young men in the Explorer Program, then they have a right to bellyache. Until they do, I don't want to hear it. Senator Cooper, you were once a staunch supporter of Space Fleet. Now, I'm not sure whatever happened to you, but those men that you call kids, children and boys are each ten times the man that you ever were."

SS Darastix

Fleet Admiral Mirah's Quarters ~ 1400

After watching the conference of Admiral McCann, Bill had a few thoughts of which he spoke aloud to nobody, "Rusty, that sounded almost like campaigning against Cooper, be careful. I would hate to force you to retire. And I think I know what crawled up Cooper's butt and died. He allowed his grandson to go to the Academy, then the boy joined the Explorer Program much the same way Kyle did. That in itself was enough to turn Cooper against the Explorer Program, but then when a ship went missing… Crewman Timothy Cooper is on the Joseph Hooker."

 

Earth

Media Center Vancouver ~ 2100

Cody Zeller, Captain of SS Joseph Hooker and brother to Senatorial Candidate Evan ZellerSenator Cooper is currently in Vegas while Candidate Zeller is in his office in Vancouver. The debate was getting heated, yet Zeller remained cool. Cooper thought he would besmudge Zeller by mentioning his brother's missing ship. "What Candidate Zeller is failing to tell everyone is that he has a brother in the Explorer program. His brother Cody is not only a member of the program, but also a First Officer aboard the SS Faggot… er, I mean Farragut."

"My brother being in the program is part of public knowledge, and yes, he is openly gay," Candidate Zeller rebutted. "But you are wrong, he isn't serving aboard the Farragut. It isn't even an Explorer Class ship. Cody is the Captain, not First Officer, aboard the SS Joseph Hooker."

"Oh, so your brother is the captain of the missing ship," Cooper chuckled.

"Senator," Evan looked very serious, "I believe you are aware that ship isn't to be discussed as missing until Space Fleet has more information."

"I don't answer to Space Fleet," Cooper declared, "They answer to me. And seeing how your brother can't even take care of his ship, what makes you think you have what it takes to represent the great people of Canadian?"

"You may be in charge of the Interstellar Space Committee, but Space Fleet does NOT answer to you. When you lose your position, you won't be in charge of anything, except maybe some rocks."

"While both of you are here," one reporter began, "can we discuss the baby Senator Cooper claimed was adopted?"

"Yes, Senator," Evan Zeller smiled, "if a baby was adopted, how are you aware of it and no one else? Or did you make that up for your own agenda?"

"The SS Sooloo has many marriages and adoptions," Cooper stated. "I can assure you, one of those adoptions is a baby. Furthermore, they are having parties on a regular basis. This program needs to come to an end so we can move those resources to where they will be of better use."

"Again, I ask you," Zeller continued, "how is it you believe there is an adopted baby? Mere speculation or by means illegal?"

"I don't answer to you," Cooper argued.

"No, but your constituents will want answers."

Tuesday, 31 March 2122

Senator Cooper's Office ~ 0700

Senator Allen Cooper entered the lobby of his office complex in the Senate Office Building. His debate with Evan Zeller had not left him in a good mood. It was a good thing for both of them that the debate was done remotely rather than in person or he might have given in to his urge to throttle the young upstart. While he had to admit that Zeller was professional in his stating his position on many of the issues, Cooper felt he was totally out of line with his comments regarding the Space Explorer Program. 

"Good afternoon, Senator," his office manager Faye Harding said pleasantly.

"Good afternoon, Faye. I'm convinced that whoever decided to make Earth's capital Vegas was, at best, a sadist. Why they thought this hellhole was better than what Canada has to offer remains beyond me. Forcing us to step out in 46c (115° F) weather is criminal. Any messages?"

"Nothing that can't wait. Pierre is waiting in your office."

"Thank you, Faye."

The Senator entered his office where Pierre Lamont, his chief of staff was sitting in his usual place. Cooper removed his suit jacket, hung it up and sat at his desk. "How do you think it went, beyond the 'good job' comment after we finished?"

"First, I think you should have listened to me instead of that media wonk, George, and had your part of the debate broadcast from your real office instead of that faux office in the studio at the Capitol Building. It lacked this place's Canadian charm," Pierre responded. Pierre had been Cooper's right-hand man from the time Cooper had started in politics. They had been friends since their college days at McGill University.

"George said it would be easier to set up and would look better on screen."

"Whatever. I think for the most part it went well. Your experience showed."

"Except for…"

Pierre finished the sentence, "Except for your position on the Explorer Program."

"Which happens to be correct," Cooper said. "And if that young idiot Zeller thinks he's going to smear me and my good name, he has another think coming. I believe it's time for a news conference to get the momentum back in my corner. That program is nothing more than child abuse. Hell, call it child slavery—what little use it had disappeared as soon as we stole the technology of those Dragon people or whoever they are."

"I agree on the idea of a news conference, Al, but I think it should wait a few days, so it doesn't give the appearance of us being on the defensive. Zeller is getting a lot of press from his accusations, and I also think giving things a couple of days to settle down and then give your view of what really is happening will put us back in a positive light."

Cooper and his chief of staff called in the Senator's PR aide, Belinda Foster, and set to work on the press conference.

Space Fleet Detention Center ~ 1100

Benjamin HoleOne of the first things that happens when entering a detention center for detainment is having your rank removed. As far as the guards are concerned, one inmate is the same rank as any other.

"Good morning, Mr. Hole," Rear Admiral Robert Crusoe began. "You gave us quite a chase trying to capture you, and it just added to the long list of crimes against you."

"I didn't do anything that wasn't in my job description," Hole insisted.

"So, running and changing a critical piece of equipment in Engineering is part of your job?" Robert challenged.

"What? No… no one was there, so how did…" Commander Hole realized he almost confessed and changed his phrasing, "I mean, I didn't change anything, and you have no witnesses to prove otherwise."

"Computer Records say differently." Crusoe then played the records showing Benjamin Hole removing the power module from Engineering. "I think I know why you did it, but I'd like for you to tell me."

"That was forged, I was nowhere near the Sooloo."

Robert smiled, "Then how did you know it was the Sooloo? I never said which ship it was."

"Fine," Benjamin Hole finally admitted. "They sent my son to prison and killed his best friend. I wanted revenge, but I didn't do any of the other stuff."

"What other stuff?" Robert looked concerned. "Is the Sooloo in danger? Tell me and I'll let JAG know. They may give you a lighter sentence."

"They are not in danger to my knowledge," Ben declared, "at least not until their program is dismantled, but I need to speak with a lawyer before I tell you anymore."

Friday, 3 April 2122

Vegas Senate Building ~ 1200

Senator Cooper's news conference was scheduled to be held in the Capitol's media room. It was all quite official and proper. Cooper was pleased to see a gathering of twenty-two members of the press seated in the auditorium along with the maximum of ten attending remotely. The Senate media spokesman, George Webster, introduced Cooper and the Senator sidled up to the podium.

"Good afternoon, members of the press. I thank you all for attending my press conference. As I stated in my announcement, I would like to address the unfair attacks coming from Evan Zeller, my election opponent regarding my stand on the Space Explorer Program. If there is time when I finish, I will answer any questions you may have."

Cooper looked down at the notes he had laid out on the podium. The notes weren't necessary since he knew exactly what he wanted to say, but Pierre felt they made a nice prop and he tended to agree since it gave the impression that he had done thorough research on the topic.

"First, I highly resent the insinuation by Candidate Zeller that I am doing something illegal. That is not at all the case. Just as with you intrepid members of the media, I have sources. They are sources I trust, and they use legitimate communication resources to contact me.

"I stand by my sources and the information they send to me. This so-called crusade is not something I took up because I wanted to stir up unnecessary controversy. My attacks are not something I pulled out of a hat—they are legitimate complaints. As the head of the Interstellar Space Committee, I learn a great deal of what happens behind the scenes that I investigate without contacting the media every time someone has a complaint. It was a complaint, a very legitimate complaint, it turns out, that started my investigation into the Explorer Program.

"A few months ago, the attorney of the grandmother of one of the Space Explorers contacted my office informing me that she had filed suit to gain custody of her grandson. She claimed the boy was kidnapped by his father, who happens to be a Space Fleet admiral, and forced to enroll in the Explorer Program against his wishes. She claimed that he was, in essence, a forced laborer.

"I want to emphasize here that this boy is just twelve years old. Obviously, in the world of adolescent boys, he ranks at the bottom of the social totem pole. Just what can a twelve-year-old boy do on a spaceship? Swab the decks? Clean the toilets? Serve as chattels for the older teens?

"I can guarantee you that this boy is not the only one placed in this kind of a position against his will. Someone has to be at the bottom, as it turns out, it's kidnapped preteens, some of whom, like this boy, were kidnapped by their own fathers to become slaves.

"I am sure you're wondering what became of the custody suit since this is most likely the first you've heard of it. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it would appear that grandmother's son, the admiral, intimidated her to drop the suit and to say nothing further of it to anyone—especially members of the media. This, and other incidents like it are a major reason I will be going after the Explorer Program with all guns blazing once I am re-elected."

In the back of the room, Victor McCafferty, one of Cooper's major adversaries in the media, was busy entering data into his tablet. He was certain there was more to the Senator's story than he was admitting and was determined to find out what really happened before the Senator finished his diatribe.

"The adoptions, the wild drug addled parties and who knows what's going on with alien species, is bad enough. Having children entering the prime of their youth being kidnapped by high officers of Space Fleet, some of whom are their own parents is a horror story even the most imaginative horror writer couldn't come up with. And, to top it off, the members of the family who come to rescue the boys are given a gag order and intimidated into dropping their suits and complaints. Evan Zeller, I ask if you have a defense for this type of behavior, because if you do, then you are undeserving of serving Canada and her citizens in the World Government Senate."

Cooper stopped and took a long, dramatic breath. Showing a slight smile, he finished with a question. "Have any of you in the media wondered why there isn't a single girl in this program? Think about it. As perverse as it may seem, the facts I've presented this afternoon may just contain the true answer to that question. Speaking of questions, I have time for a few."

Hands quickly shot up. Cooper pointed to a lady in the second row. "Miss Harkness, what can I answer for you?"

"Senator, are you saying there is no truth to the accusation that you have managed to tap into the Star Fleet communications system, in particular that of the Sooloo?"

Cooper loved Mary Harkness. She always managed to ask softball questions. "There is no truth at all to that accusation. I would have no idea how to begin to do something like that. It is a false accusation that doesn't deserve an answer beyond that."

Of course, having had a mole onboard the Sooloo who actually did tap into the ship's communication systems makes it very easy to begin doing something like that, Pierre Lamont thought. Having those communications feed into the Space Fleet server where they are intercepted by a loyal citizen of the Senator makes the communications very difficult to trace.

"Mr. Patterson," Senator Cooper called out.

"It there any truth to the rumor that your attack on the Space Explorer Program is due to the low number of Canadian boys in the program?"

"None at all. I am in fact, pleased that Canadian boys and their parents have the intelligence and integrity to stay out of that mess. My understanding is that twelve percent of the boys in the program are Canadian, and even that number is too many as far as I'm concerned."

Senator Cooper answered three more questions before announcing he had time for one more. "Mr. Senator," came the loud voice of Victor McCafferty to the dismay of Cooper. Everyone else's hands, even those of his shills, dropped. McCafferty rarely asked questions—he let his vitriol come through in his columns or media appearances. But when he did raise his hand, the rest of the media deferred to him, since they all loved watching the verbal blood sport between McCafferty and whomever his political adversary was.

Cooper wanted to say he had an appointment and walk out, but he knew from experience that ploy wouldn't work until he had answered some of whatever it was that McCafferty was planning to ask—then he could stop and attend his appointment. For his party, McCafferty had learned to get to his point and go for the jugular instantly. "Well, Mr. McCafferty, what kind of nonsense do you have to enlighten us with today?"

"Senator, I did a little research on custody suits against the Explorer Program. I came across five, only one of which involved the relative of a Space Fleet admiral. Would your source happen to be Mrs. Miranda Buckner?"

"I don't seem to recall that name."

"Oh, really? Her son happens to be Admiral Greg Robinson, who is part of the Space Fleet Explorer command structure. Her grandson is twelve-year-old Kyle Robinson, who just happens to be assigned to the Sooloo."

"Like you, Mr. McCafferty, I am professional in my behavior and don't reveal my sources unless it's absolutely necessary, and even then, it would be with their consent. I surely wouldn't give out the name of a boy who had been placed in a position like the one I mentioned, and one I assume this Robinson boy is in—that of forced laborer and chattel."

Ignoring Cooper's comment, McCafferty went on. "It appears that young Mr. Robinson is a senior officer on the Sooloo who happens to be the ship's Chief Astrogator."

"Surely, you jest, Victor." Cooper knew that calling McCafferty by his first name would irk him. "You mean to say this boy's job is to read the Zodiac and predict where the ship will end up?"

"You misunderstood me, Senator. I said astrogator, not astrologer. Astrogation is the science of navigating between the stars."

"Whatever. I suppose you're going to tell me that his little boy genius is married and has kids."

"In fact, he is married, and he and his husband have an adopted boy plus guardianship of the husband's brother."

Cooper broke out into a gale of laughter. "Victor, you just made my case for me. What you described is what I have been talking about. A twelve-year-old boy who is the chattel of some older teen who is a true senior officer and cleans his cabin, feeds his kids, takes care of his other needs, and if need be, tells his boss what the stars are saying. Oh, that is rich. I haven't had that good a laugh in a long time."

Cooper glanced at his watch. "I have an appointment coming up and must end this news conference. Thank you for attending. I hope you are now prepared to tell the citizens the truth of what goes on in the Explorer Program. Even you, Victor." With that, Senator Cooper turned and walked backstage with Pierre.

"I think that went rather well, Pierre," Cooper said as they walked out the private exit.

"What you said was believable, if not always the truth," Pierre grinned.

"Like I'm fond of saying, Pierre, voters, even the good voters of Canada, are a gullible sort. Many prefer a lie that sounds good to a truth they don't want to hear. And getting those voters to vote for you will win most elections. My lies are ever so much dicier than Zeller's truths, and there's not much he can do about that."

Vancouver, Candidate Zeller's Office ~ 1400

"Mr. Zeller, did you see Cooper's last conference?"

"I did. Get me everything you can about Kyle Robinson. I want every detail, his husband's age, how long they've known each other. Hell, get me everything on the entire crew of the Sooloo."

After Zeller's request was honored, he took time reading everything. He absorbed what he thought he could use and packed the rest in his mind to bring to light as needed.

At 1600, Zellers conducted another press conference. "Senator Cooper claimed that these children were forced into labor by their parents. Would it surprise you that Kyle Robinson did everything in his power to make his dream come true? His father, Admiral Greg Robinson was against his son going into space until the last minute. He hugged his son before Kyle left to join the crew on the Sooloo.

"Another member of the crew, Jason Blackwell, Jace to his friends, at the age of twelve hacked into Space Camp's computer system. He only gave his team the grade he thought they deserved, but let me repeat, at the age of twelve, he hacked into a military protected computer system. His punishment? Either take the opportunity to join Space Fleet or live out the rest of his childhood as a regular kid. That doesn't sound forced to me.

"Oh, and talk about Kyle's husband treating Kyle as chattel… would it surprise you that Kyle’s husband is NOT an older teen but Danny Robinson nee Harper?  Kyle and Danny knew each other more than six years before they left on the Sooloo. Danny is only fifty-two days older than Kyle. He's a tween just like Kyle. Furthermore, I placed a call to Kyle's grandmother. She told me how excited Kyle was to show her his home away from home. She also informed me that it was Kyle and not his father who convinced her to drop the lawsuit. She had nothing but good things to say about the Explorer Program.

"Senator Cooper, you asked if I had a defense for those kidnapping their children and putting them into forced labor. I don't and I wouldn't, it would be wrong. I do, however, defend those young men wearing Space Fleet uniforms and exceeding where our adults have come up lacking. I defend those young men marrying the person they love. I defend those families having a right to adopt brilliant boys like Juro, Tomo, Shasho and Sukotto. These boys were not forced to do anything, but each has requested to join Space Fleet and excelled at their tests.

"Senator, I am surprised that you didn't claim the fifty young men who were orphans, one in each of what were the fifty United States of America. But you see, even they were not forced to join. These boys were above the age where most children no longer are considered for adoption, so they were given all the facts and details and then, only after they understood the risks, were given an opportunity to join.

"Two of the boys are on the Sooloo, Aiden Douglass and Connor Marlin. I should correct that, they married, and their last name is Marlin-Douglass. I know the SS Joseph Hooker has one of these boys. His name is Eric Ashley. The Captain of the Victorious, Dylan Bowmont is another. Admittedly, Bowmont wasn't originally the captain, but he proved himself and through proper channels took command.

"I am Evan Zeller, and I want to represent our people as they should be represented."

SS Sooloo

Saturday, 4 April 2122

Robinson Quarters ~ 1000

Danny entered his quarters and saw Kyle on the couch glaring at the blank big screen on the opposite wall. He sat next to his husband and could tell that he was furious about something.

"What did you just watch?" Danny asked.

"Something Steve sent me. That asshole really pisses me off," Kyle fumed.

"You're calling Steve an asshole?"

"Huh? Why are you asking me…? Oh, I get it. Sorry, love. I meant the asshole on the video, which was a press conference involving Senator Cooper."

"Makes sense since he is an asshole for sure. But how is Steve involved in this?"

"You know how Steve is," Kyle replied. "Nothing happens without him knowing something about it. He's been tracking that Senate race and he saw that Cooper was responding to what Zeller had said was a run of lies. He knew I'd want to see it since it's my name that Senator Asshole brought into this mess, not that I can do much about it. He also sent it to Dave and Hal to watch."

"Too bad we can't vote in this election," Danny said.

"We're not Canadian, let alone from his Province. All we can do is watch."

"There must be something you can do."

"Yeah, I can keep staring at a blank screen and keep being pissed at Senator Asshole. But Zeller did a good job speaking up for you and me and who we are."

"Why can't you give your own news conference and stand up for yourself?" Danny suggested. "Let everybody know what I already know and that's how awesome you are."

Kyle was lost in thought for a few seconds and reminded him, "There has to be some regulation against doing that."

"I thought you were a take charge guy. You know guys who know the answers. Go tell them what you want—the worst that can happen is they say you can't do it."

Kyle leaned into Danny and gave him a long kiss on the lips. "I love you, Danno. You always seem to know when to kick me in the ass." Kyle picked up his communicator and typed a message to Hal and showed it to Danny.

"Looks good, but why not go higher?"

"I plan to, but proper protocol is to work through the chain of command. That means starting with my Hal, who is my direct superior, and working up from there. But why am I telling you this, you understand the protocol."

 "YOUR Hal? You're not gonna share him with the rest of the crew?"

"Oops," Kyle chuckled, "I was thinking 'my captain' and 'Hal' at the same time and that's how it came out."

"I can understand that. Anyway, I know, but I thought maybe you were in a hurry and might cut some corners."

"Danny, Danny, Danny, you know that all cutting corners does is slow things down."

"I do know. And the fact that you do it the right way is why you're the senior officer in the family, and why I love you so much."

"And the fact that you can be impulsive is why you command a squadron of fighters where that can be a strength, and why I love you so much," Kyle responded.

Hal's Ready Room ~ 1030

A half hour later, Kyle was sitting in the Captain's Ready Room. "I assume from your request for a meeting that it has to do with a certain Canadian senator," Hal opened.

"Yes, it does. He said some things I want to reply to," Kyle informed him.

"You understand that Star Fleet protocol states that, as active members we cannot campaign for or against a candidate."

"I do. But I don't plan on campaigning against the senator; I just want to clear my name of the lies he said about me."

"I'll be honest with you. I really feel you should have the chance to defend yourself, but I don't feel comfortable approving your making a public statement. I think a higher authority than me is needed," Hal commented. "I appreciate your decision to work up the chain of command, and I strongly suggest you bring the issue up with Dave. See where it goes from there."

Dave's Room ~ 1100

That led to Kyle finding himself in a conference with the Commodore. Kyle had a watch scheduled in an hour; he was hungry and wanted to eat before reporting to the bridge. Somehow, he had a feeling his meeting with Dave wouldn't run much longer that the one with Hal.

Kyle's premonition ended up being on the mark. "Who do you plan on talking to next?" Dave asked before Kyle had a chance to open his mouth.

"I thought I was talking to you next," Kyle answered.

"One thing I've learned in my short time as a ship's captain and even shorter time as a commodore is to not waste people's time. Any decision I would make regarding you having a press conference would be reviewed by higher admiralty, so I may as well kick it upstairs right off the bat. I know you will be standing watch in less than an hour, and since you are a pubescent eating machine, I'm sure you'd like some time to eat beforehand."

"I had a snack before coming here, but yeah, I'm ready for a meal."

"Then all you have to do is answer my question."

"Which was?"

Dave shook his head. "Spoken like a hungry twelve-year-old. My question was, who do you plan on talking to next?"

"Oh, yeah," Kyle grinned, "I barely had a chance to sit down when you asked me that, which is why I forgot."

"Are you saying you need to be sitting on your ass to think about and remember things?"

"Daaave," Kyle whined with the kind of familiarity he had developed with Dave during their relationship.

"Sorry, I couldn't help myself."

"Well, since I'm sure you'd like to know before I die of hunger, I think a certain Admiral Robinson should be next. And before you say anything, yes, I'm gonna go talk to my daddy."

"Good decision—daddy or not, he is the next link in the chain. And a good job of going about this the right way. Once again, you're proving to be a good officer. Now, get off your ass and go eat."

"Thanks, Dave. And thanks for understanding."

"My pleasure. Tell Danny I said hi."

"Will do," Kyle said as he left for the Officers Mess.

Monday, 6 April 2122

Hal's Ready Room ~ 0550

Being summoned to Hal's Ready Room so early had John Luke nervous. To his knowledge, he hadn't done anything, so what could Hal want? John rang the chime and waited until he heard Hal call out, "Enter." As John walked through the door, Hal chuckled, "I'm pleased with your promptness, have a seat."

"What can I do for you, Sir?" John didn't know the nature of the summons, so he thought he should remain formal until Hal told him otherwise.

"This is an informal chat, Commander," Hal chuckled. "Have you been seeing the news reports?"

"Several, but the ones I mainly listen to are the Canadian base ones, since I was born in Vancouver."

"So you've been listening to the Canadian senator race?" Hal questioned.

"You mean between Cooper and Zeller? My dad is glad someone is finally running against that son of a bitch. Furthermore, he is happy with the candidate and knows him personally."

"You know, since you have been emancipated, you have the right to vote," Hal reminded him.

John nodded his head, "And you think I should vote for Zeller."

Hal shook his head, "I cannot tell you who to vote for, just that I think you need to be sure your vote counts."

John smiled, "But you are hoping I vote for Zeller."

Hal continued shaking his head, "I can't even say that much. You are a smart guy, and you've admitted you've been watching the race. I know you will vote for the person you think is best suited."

"I have to admit, Sir," John began, "I might be a bit biased."

"Oh?"

John, nodding his head, grinned, "Mom's maiden name is Zeller. Uncle Evan is her younger brother, and Uncle Cody is the youngest of the three. Cody is a little older than me, and captain of the missing ship. We grew up together and played. Uncle Cody taught me a lot about sex, but never entered me. He thought I should save that for someone special, and I'm glad it was Will. Dad thinks Uncle Evan is going to win by a landslide." A tear rolled down Hal's cheek as John spoke of Cody, but then the boy got excited about his uncle and Hal let out a laugh like no other.