Voyagers: SS Robert Heinlein

Chapter 12-Learning the Heinlein


Kyle woke six minutes before his alarm was set to go off. He rose quietly, careful not to wake his soundly sleeping son. Danny joined him in the shower. They could hear the other upstairs shower running as they stepped out of their shower and dried each other. The other shower going meant that Ronnie and Tommy were awake.  They dried each other and went to their bedroom. Koji barely stirred as they dressed in their work uniforms.
The four boys were seated at the dining room table eating breakfast by 0620. Alicia had cooked up a teen’s delight of waffles, French toast, and bacon, with mixed fruit on the side. They had apple and orange juice as their breakfast drinks. Ronnie also had a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
“I take it the youngers are still sleeping,” Greg commented.
“Like logs,” Danny said.
“Their alarms are set for 0700 and I guarantee you won’t hear from them until then,” Kyle added.
“I swear, those two could curl up to sleep next to a rocket launching pad and it wouldn’t wake them up.”
“Their alarm seems to do the trick just about every morning,” Alicia grinned.
“That’s because they’ve been trained to respond to the music on their alarm,” Kyle said. “And it’s not loud Darastixian stuff, it’s the ancient stuff that Duskin likes to play on the piano.”
“I’m a supposed expert on extraterrestrial behavior, and yet even I can’t figure those two out.”
After finishing breakfast, the four young Space Explorer officers went to their bedrooms, grabbed their grips, and met Greg, who had backed his car out of the garage. They were soon on their way to Tiberius Space Port.
Duskin and Koji came to breakfast when expected. Since Duskin had slept in Danny’s room he had to rely on Koji to wake him up. When his alarm went off Koji jumped right out of bed and went to his room to awaken his brother.
As they ate Koji told Alicia he wanted to ask her something. “Ask away, son,” Alicia grinned.
“Well, Nafldaska (grandmother) Alicia, Marsh and I were talking at my party and we were wondering if he could take the day off from school tomorrow and go with us for the kids trip to the ship and that way he can see the Marsh and see the ship and could even make a report in school on it,” Koji rambled.
“Whew, that was quite a mouthful,” Alicia said.
“Duskin has the mouthful. He’s got too much oatmeal in his mouth.”
Alicia chuckled, pleased with Koji’s play on words. It indicated his understanding of English was improving. “Marsh is going to have to talk to his mother about it. She has to give him permission.”
“I know, but we thought she could tell you he can go and you can ask the school if he can go with us because I know they said we can go because it will be like a school assignment. And I can ask Opsola Kyle if it’s okay or even maybe Grandpapa Admiral if we need to.”
“Well, Koji, I think it’s a wonderful idea and I will do everything I can to help you.”
Koji grinned and gave his grandmother a hug. Marsh was one of his best friends ever. He thought it would be really wonderful if that friend could go to the Heinlein. He said thank you and gave Alicia a big hug. Duskin followed up with a hug of his own. The boys then ran upstairs to finish getting ready for school.
 Kyle and the Heinlein senior officers were sitting in the waiting area at the Space Fleet terminal along with Danny, “Red” Lynch, and Jesse Gross, They had all arrived on time and were ready to board the Mozart which the ground crew had just parked at the terminal gate. They were all seated and secured by 0740. Danny was their pilot and “Red” Lynch their co-pilot. Jesse was on board so he could take over shuttle bay duties and secure the shuttle.
The take-off and flight to the Heinlein was routine. The senior officer meeting started at 0815 and was run by Kyle. The topics to be discussed were the duties of each department in an emergency situation, personnel problems, personnel callouts, issues that were still being dealt with by the Space Fleet personnel on board and any issues that need to be brought to their attention. The emergency duties were the major issues.
Over the next three days only some departments of the ship would be on board. The biggest topic that would be during that time was dealing with emergencies. The day would consist of various kinds of emergency drills. Saturday would have the entire crew on board together going though emergency drills.
The full crew started arriving at 0900. They were all gathered in the holodeck meeting room at 1000, ready for their meeting with the senior staff, which Devin started right on time. Devin told the crew that their day would be devoted to watching the Explorer Program video on emergency procedure, walking through emergency situations, enjoy a lunch cooked up by the Space Fleet culinary staff, and learning more about the layout and equipment of their departments.
The mention of the video drew scattered boos since everyone had seen the video as part of their Academy education. Devin stopped the boos with a cutting gesture across his throat. He then asked how many of them thought they could pass an exam on the procedures mentioned in the video with a 100% score. Almost three-quarters of the crew members raised their hands.
Devin nodded and handed the senior officers multiple choice tests to pass out to their departments. They then passed out a multiple-choice test with the name of the crewman imprinted on it and a test pencil to each crewman in his department. Devin gave instructions and told them they had fifteen minutes to complete the test.
“Fifteen minutes?” Don Nixon wailed. “That’s not fair.”
“Think of it this way, Lieutenant Nixon, when are emergencies ever fair?” Devin responded. Don didn’t notice Kyle standing in the back of the room with arms folded, nodding. Everett did notice, however. Don slouched down in his seat and sulked. He suddenly wasn’t so sure he wanted Devin to remain his first officer after he took over the ship. He needed someone he knew he could work with.
After all the tests were turned in, Devin handed them over to Steve who took them to the Operations office and ran them through an electronic reader which sent the results to the computer. In a couple of minutes each test had a score and the score for each crew member was stored in the computer. Steve looked at the totals and grinned—he was certain that when the crew heard the results they would perk up and pay closer attention to the emergency topic.
Steve handed Devin a printout with the scores. Devin kept a straight face and said, “Well, men, it appears we have our work cut out for us over the next couple of days. The average score on a topic that could save your lives was 81.7%.”
Devin looked over to Kyle, whose comment was simple but terse. “That number is unacceptable.”
“That couldn’t be any clearer than how Captain Robinson said it. I will say, however, that there were five perfect scores.”
Devin paused, knowing what Kyle was going to say next. They’d rehearsed what they were going to say earlier since they expected the low scores. “Our goal for the second time through is one-hundred percent perfect scores,” Kyle said in a challenging tone.
Devin then continued his presentation. “I’ve been told that your belongings arrived on the Bubba Saur and almost all of it was delivered to your quarters. So, how about we take a break so you can check if you have all of your bags and boxes and then come back to view the video. You will get time this afternoon to unpack and to start organizing your quarters.”
The crew was attentive as they viewed the video. After time for discussion, they were dismissed to lunch. After lunch they were given time to take care of their belongings. Kyle was pleased to say that nothing appeared to have been lost or misdelivered since nobody reported missing items.    
Toward the end of the day, the crew retook the exam. The average score was 99.2% with only four crewmembers missing a perfect score. Kyle thought it interesting that Don Nixon and Everett Belmont were two of the four. Wade Green, who hung out with those two, was one of the others. The fourth one was Rice McKenzie in operations who was totally embarrassed after realizing he had made a stupid mistake after misreading one of the questions.
The day ended at 1600. All of the Heinlein crew were off the ship by 1700.
 Koji and Duskin were all over Kyle and Danny when they entered the house. “Opsola’s, guess what?” they shouted together.
“You fell into the swimming pool with all of your clothes on when you got home from school,” Kyle said.
“No, that’s silly stuff,” Koji responded. “This is serious stuff.”
“You passed the commander’s test and you’ll be co-commanding the Darastix,” Danny guessed with mock seriousness.
Koji stomped his right foot. “Be serious!” Duskin then stomped his left foot but said nothing.
“Hmmm, you wouldn’t happen to be talking about Marsh getting permission to go with you guys on the Heinlein tomorrow, would you?” Kyle grinned.
“It’s about time you got it right. Sometimes you and opsola Danny just don’t get things right because you get silly.”
Kyle stepped up to Koji and gave him a tight hug. “Sorry if I hurt your feelings, son. Sometimes your daddy Danny and I just like to have fun.” He looked down and his son and smiled. He felt relieved when Koji smiled back. He wasn’t always sure how Koji would respond to teasing. “But seriously, that is amazingly fantastic news. He’s going to be learning a lot tomorrow.”
Danny hugged Duskin. “And so will you two. Both of you are awesome friends to take the time to invite Marsh to go with you tomorrow and to set up properly with the adults.”
“Yep. You two did everything right and you should have got a ton of praise for what you did instead of silly teasing from Danny and me.”
“Silly teasing says that you love us,” Koji said.
“Who told you that?”
“Unka Ronnie.”
Ronnie, who had been standing in the background, grinned when Kyle and Danny looked at him. “Hey, I learned that from my father. And I think our dad would say the same thing.”
“Maybe, except he hardly ever teases,” Danny said.
“Maybe, but he can be a teaser, right?”
“Like Danny says, not very often. Now, I gotta play dad and captain and all that stuff and ask what the schedule is tomorrow as far as Marsh goes.”
“Nafldask (grandmother) Alicia says Marsh will be here for breakfast tomorrow,” Koji said. “She said he can’t stay the night because we will never sleep.”
“Your grandmother is very wise woman,” Kyle said. 
The conversation ended with Alicia calling the boys to dinner.
The boys thought it was a bit cool out for swimming, so they played various games until they were hustled off to bed by Alicia. They would have to be up early the next morning. Kyle, Danny, and Ronnie were scheduled to be on the Heinlein at 0800. The crew and the children were slated to meet at 1000 the holodeck meeting room. Koji, Duskin, and Marsh would be placed on a shuttle sometime between 0830 and 0900 by Devin or Steve who would be supervising the loading of the shuttles.
Kyle, Danny, and Ronnie were tired out by the busy day and fell right to sleep. Koji and Duskin were revved up for their big day and took a bit longer but were still zonked out in plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep.
The Heinlein did not have its full crew on board, which would be the case until Saturday. The smaller numbers would give the senior officers a chance to work more closely with the crew members. Navigation, science, operations, and medicine were the departments that were meeting that day. The other departments would be meeting with their chief officer to do classroom work in their field and to learn how the watches would be assigned.
The meeting room was close to full by 0955. The dependent children sat together in the front row. They would be working with Ali in the classroom once the large meeting broke up. The kids would be coming back on Friday along with their belongings. Putting away their gear would be a major part of that day for them.
There were eight boys in the front row who would be Ali’s full-time students. They were Matthew and Mark Wilson, the brothers of Logan Wilson, the chief science officer; Akage Enzan, the son of Kage Enzan, chief of tactical and security; Tai Haimono; and Koji Robinson and Duskin Robinson, the sons of Captain Robinson and Chief Pilot Danny Robinson. There was also one guest in the front row, and that was Cadet Marsh Dawkins.
Two other boys would be spending a great deal of their time in the classroom. They were Bobby Brown and Colby Douglas, both of whom were listed on the Heinlein roster as crewmen and had specific ship’s duties assigned to them.
Bobby, who was the younger brother of Ensign Caleb Brown, would be serving part time duty in the science department as a botanist. But he was also considered a full-time student at the Space Academy and would be doing close to full-time classwork in the classroom. 
Colby was assigned to the shuttle bay but still had three classes to complete in order to take the ensign test. He was required to spend three half-days in the classroom until he was eligible to take the test. The end of his classroom attendance requirement was contingent on his passing the test.
Shasho Boyer, who was a permanent ensign and worked as an assistant in operations, would be doing mostly online classroom work as he set his sights on becoming a lieutenant. He would report to Ali on a weekly basis. Shasho was the son of Steve Boyer and Brad Kanye. Although Tommy Harper had passed his ensign exam and was the assistant science chief, he was expected to take an Academy leadership class online because of his relative inexperience. He would be reporting to Ali at least twice a week to go over his progress. 
Devin welcomed the crewmembers and the students on board for the day and went over the schedule for the day. Kyle then addressed the group and told them what his expectations for the day were. “This isn’t the last time you’ll be hearing this from me or from the senior officers, but today all of us will be expected to put our maximum effort into the three keys to success. Anybody know what they are?”
Quite a few hands shot up, including four in the front row. Kyle called on Shasho. Shasho stood up to answer to ensure everyone could hear him. “The three keys to success are hard work, hard work, and hard work…Sir.”
“Well done ensign. You are exactly right. By the end of the week all hands should shoot up if this question is asked again.”
Kyle turned the meeting back to Devin and left the meeting room. Devin told the meeting attendees that they were dismissed and were expected to report to their department in fifteen minutes.
“The three keys to success,” Don spit out as he and Everett stood to leave the room. “What a crock of elementary school bullshit. Captain Bullshit must think we’re all little kids. I hope he gives us an opportunity to get rid of him early.”
“You hope he does, or you think he will do it for us?” Everett asked.
“Good question. I KNOW he will fucking give us the chance. There’s no way he makes it through the first two months if everything is close to whatever normal is. What my hope is based on is that things will be even more unnormal than usual and he’s gone in a month.”
“Amen to that.”
“Add to that the little pissant who was picked as our assistant science chief who doesn’t deserve to last that long. What a loser he is.” Don was referring to Tommy Harper. “At least our chief, little kid that he is, has half a clue, which is more than I can say for Harper.”
The department and classroom meetings went until 1200 when they broke up for lunch. Lunch was a simple affair cooked up by the Space Fleet cooking staff: a choice of cold sandwiches, BLTAs, or hot dogs with a side of macaroni salad and cookies for dessert. The Heinlein staff was meeting in the Space Fleet Academy kitchen to learn new recipes along with some different cooking techniques.
After lunch the onboard crew members went through the various drills, with special emphasis on what each crew member’s responsibility would be in each drill. That responsibility shifted depending on if a crew member was standing watch or not, which meant everyone had a lot do learn.
Seven admirals congregated in the meeting room to discuss Space Fleet food services. They were the members of the Space Fleet Food Service Committee. The seven admirals were Admirals Greg Robinson, Director of the Explorer Program; Harley Benson, Director of Space Fleet Freight Transport; Rene Trudeau, Director of Passenger Services; Linda McKenzie, Human Resources Chief; Darius Reghardt, Director of Culinary Services; Adam Wyman, Chief Financial Officer; and Marshall Diamond, Director of Space Fleet Logistics.
Of the seven admirals, three positions had permanent seats on the board: Director of the Explorer Program, Director of Passenger Services, and the Culinary Services Chief. They were manned by whatever admiral was assigned to the position. The other four were each appointed by the Fleet Admiral and served three-year terms. They could not be reappointed until three years after their term expired.
Being the senior officer on the committee meant that Greg was the chairman of the committee. He went through the agenda and the meeting was routine until he got to new business. “Darius asked that we reconsider our stand on Commanders being allowed to dine at the Galaxy Bistro if they were the commanding officer of a starship. I will ask him to give us his reasoning. Darius, the floor is yours.”
 Darius quickly explained his reasoning, mainly that a person who commanded a starship did what many dreamed of doing but very few ever got the chance to do. The rank shouldn’t matter, it was the position that mattered. “It’s time to rectify the error this committee made six months ago when he took our vote. Because six months have passed, according to our bylaws, the motion can be revisited.”
He went on to address the objections the committee had when it took the previous vote, the big one was getting immediate confirmation that Commander X was the commander of a starship. It would be up to technology to solve with the use of retinal scans that would be matched to the database of retinal scans of all the Space Fleet starship commanders. “It’s that simple,” Darius said.
“Why didn’t you suggest that last time,” Greg asked even though he already knew the answer.
“It was voted down because some felt that paying to install the equipment in the restaurant was too much considering it wouldn’t be used often. I didn’t do a good job of answering, but now I will. First, it never hurts to treat our fine officers with the respect they deserve, and the commander of a starship certainly deserves a ton of respect. Second, I didn’t anticipate the argument and didn’t have a good answer to the issue of cost. Now I do—the extra business brought in by those commanders would more than pay the costs.”
“But over 85% of the ship commanders are captains, and most of those who aren’t are mostly freighter commanders,” Harely Benson pointed out.
“You should know Harley, since you command the freighters,” Darius said. “The numbers say that if a quarter of the freighter commanders enjoy a meal here when they are Earthside, their business alone would cover the costs.” Chief Financial Officer Wyman agreed with Darius’s assessment.
After more discussion, Linda McKenzie called for the question. Greg agreed since nobody had anything new to offer. The motion passed by a 5-1 vote, with Harley Benson being the lone dissenting vote.
“I don’t think the committee made the right decision,” Admiral Benson said using his right to give a minority opinion. “The commanders who are captains worked hard to achieve that rank. If they were elite, they wouldn’t be freighter captains. Commanders in the Bistro. I’d love to spit on that.”
If you weren’t a complete idiot you would have promoted half of those commanders to captain since they are eligible for promotion, and you know it, Greg thought. How you ever became a senior admiral is a mystery to me. On the other hand, I know how your shortcomings cost your previous position, and deservedly so. Greg had played a role in Benson’s transfer. I wouldn’t be surprised if he harbored a resentment against me for what had transpired.
The other agenda item was a proposal that had been submitted by Human Resources Director Linda McKenzie. It proposed that the Exploration Program culinary staff be changed from civilian employees to full crew member status, which meant wearing a uniform, having a rank, with the rights and responsibilities of a full member of the crew. After a great deal of discussion and votes on several amendments, it was agreed to table the motion.
The motion would return to the agenda after all Explorer ship head chefs were consulted as well as the captains. They would be expected to bring the motion to the attention of their culinary staff for a vote. Once the votes were completed, the motion would be up for more discussion and, hopefully, a vote by the committee.
As director of the Explorer Program, Greg was very interested in this proposal. He and Linda had spent a great deal of time on the proposal. Greg told the committee that the proposal should not become public knowledge until after the information was shared with the head chefs. The proposal had been a complete surprise to the committee members.
Harley Benson was upset with the proposal. He was about to give the committee a piece of his mind for not junking it when a thought came to him. He wondered if he might be able to use the proposal for his own gain. I’ll have to give this some serious thought when I get home, come up with a plan, and give the kid a call and see if he thinks we can use this.
 “Opsola Kyle, why can’t we all come back tomorrow?” Koji asked his father as Ali’s afternoon class session ended.
“Because there is a lot that you and your classmates need to do at the Academy before we head into outer space,” Kyle answered.
“But Bobby Brown, and Colby and Shasho get to come back on Saturday again, and we don’t have Academy on Saturday so what makes them so special?”
“They have specific duties on the ship and are listed as part time crewmembers.”
“But they had to do all the drills that we had to do.”
“I’m not quite sure what your point is there, but I will say that the drills you and your classmates did are ones those three have to know, too, should an emergency ever occur while you’re all in class. Besides, you’ll be back on board Friday, so quit complaining. Now, enough of that. Go roundup Duskin and Marsh so we can board the Marsh together.” Koji shuffled off making sure Kyle would see how unhappy he was.
Even though it was a long-range shuttle, Kyle arranged to have the Marsh be one of the shuttles returning the crew to Earth so Marsh could enjoy a flight on it with his friends. Apparently, that wasn’t enough to make Koji happy. He still couldn’t figure out Koji’s argument about not being on the Heinlein tomorrow and Saturday when he would have Friday on board the ship. There were times when Koji could be frustrating and this was one of those times.
Koji, Duskin, and Marsh came back to Kyle who was standing patiently in the back of the classroom. Koji stood a little ahead of the other two boys and looked up at his dad. “Thank you, Opsola Kyle, for making it so Marsh can fly on the Marsh. You are the very best opsola on the Heinlein. Koji wrapped his arms around Kyle and squeezed hard.”
Kyle knew that this was one of Koji’s ways of apologizing. He gave his son a squeeze back. “I love you, Koji,” he said quietly and sincerely. Koji stepped back and smiled. Kyle and the three boys left the classroom together for the shuttle bay and the Marsh.
Koji was not surprised that his opsola Danny was the pilot. He knew how his opsolas thought. He thanked Danny for being the pilot of the Marsh for Marsh. The copilot was Ryder “Stallion” Colt. The trip from the Heinlein to the Tiberius Space Center was routine. With six boys to take to the Robinson residence, Greg procured one of Space Fleet’s autonomous min-vans. Their “driver” was warrant officer Advik Bakshi, who was from Mumbai, India.
Alicia had dinner ready when the boys piled out of the van and went into the house. It didn’t take the family long to take their places at the dinner table for a delicious Shepherd’s Pie. Dessert was blueberry cobbler. Marsh’s mother picked him up after dinner.
The Robinsons played games until bedtime arrived. It was an early one, of course. Kyle and Danny would be returning to the Heinlein for the day. Ronnie would be going with them since this was the day for his engineering staff to meet and drill on board the ship. Koji and Duskin would be attending their class at the academy, although they would much rather be returning to the Heinlein.
The departments meeting on board the ship on this day were engineering, information, and security/tactical. Medical was on board as well, since each department would be doing emergency drills, some of which included members of the medical staff. The medical staff would be on board again for the next day’s meetings and drills.
Once the drills were finished and the departments met in their area of the ship, Kyle retired to his ready room to check on his messages, vainly hoping that none of them would generate paperwork to deal with. He saw that one of the messages was from his father in his capacity of chairman of the Space Fleet Food Services Committee. It was addressed to the Explorer Program captains. He figured it contained the minutes from the previous day’s minutes. He decided that since the only thing his father had mention from the meeting was the vote on allowing commanders who commanded a starship to eat at the Galactic Bistro, it was unlikely that there would be anything that pertained directly to him and flagged the message to be read later.
His door buzzer brought him back to reality. “Enter!” he commanded. He was not surprised to see his Chief of Tactics and Security, Kage Enzan, enter the ready room. Kyle pointed to a chair beside his desk and invited Kage to have a seat. “What can I do for you?”
“I’m checking in with you before interviewing Quinn,” Kage answered.
“I take it Jarrod is running your department’s meeting right now, which means you must think he’s ready for the responsibility.”
“He’s a quick learner. Last night he and I went over what he would be covering. Essentially, he has the staff solving tactical problems. Even those guys in security could easily end up having to deal with tactical situations.”
“Do you feel ready?” Kyle asked.
“Yep. I think it helped that I interviewed Jarrod for the security job. I feel very confident.”
“I’ve talked with Quinn and learned quickly that he’s not only smart but is also a good guy.”
“It would be great if you could sit in on the interview with me. But I know that’s not how it works since you will be doing the second interview.” 
“I know you’re prepared. Plus, unless Quinn falls completely on his ass, we both know he will be our pick as head of security. He just passed the Commander’s test and Captain Reis had recommended him for promotion once he passed the test. My questions in the second interview will deal with his take on how his responsibilities will change once he’s promoted to lieutenant commander and becomes head of security.
“Now, that’s enough talk. I know you’re ready for this interview and it will all go smoothly.”
“Thanks, Kyle. I’ll see you after I finish.”
Kage left the ready room feeling better than when he went in. Kyle had done a good job of calming his jitters. He was reminded that Kyle had met Quinn while eating lunch in the main dining room and chatted with him. He liked how Kyle had no problem mixing with the crew and getting to know them. That looked like it would be paying off in being able to quickly move Quinn to his new responsibilities.
The interview was quick but thorough. It covered all aspects of the security position. Kage was impressed by Quinn’s knowledge. It was obvious he had come prepared. His experience working in tactical/ security showed. Kage had no doubt that Quinn was fully qualified for the job.
“I think you have shown yourself to be ready for the job. I’m going to recommend to Captain Robinson that you be named the security supervisor.” Kage said. He stood up and held out his hand.
Quinn followed him to his feet, took his hand, and gave his commander a hearty handshake. “Thank you, Commander Enzan. I promise you that I won’t make you disappointed you chose me.”
“Okay, now that we’ve taken care of the formalities you can go back to calling me Kage—except in formal situations, of course. When is your meeting with Kyle?”
“In an hour. I’m hoping I go two-for-two in my interviews.”
“I’ll tell you this much, Quinn; No promises, but I have a feeling you’ll finish up with a one thousand batting average.”
Kyle had two interviews scheduled. The first was with Ronnie for the largely ceremonial position of third officer. Steve Boyer had already been named second officer of the Heinlein. This interview would be conducted with the assistance of first officer Devin French, as was directed in the Explorer Program Manual.
“Before you guys start grilling me, I have a couple of things I’d like to say,” Ronnie said as soon as everyone was settled in the captain’s ready room.
“Go for it,” Kyle said.
“First, you guys made a great choice picking Steve as second officer. Second, Kyle and I have discussed this position in private conversations, and I thought I had made it clear that I am not seeking the position. If the occasion occurs where the third officer must fulfill his duties because everyone has his hands full, chances are the chief engineer will have his hands full as well since this will probably mean dealing with a yellow or red alert situation. And second, I don’t want people to think I got picked because I’m Kyle’s brother.”
“I’ll have Devin talk about both issues you brought up,” Kyle said. 
Devin smoothly took over the meeting. “The chances of you having to make command decisions in an alert situation are really slim. It’s unlikely that you would be drawn away from your chief engineer duties.”
“And like I said, if I have to be making decisions as third officer then we’re on deep shit, which makes it even more important that I give all of my attention to the engines. This is especially important since Kai is just learning the ins and outs of being the assistant chief.”
“As for Kyle playing favorites because you’re his brother—well, everybody, but a small group of idiots, knows that’s not how Kyle works.”
“Kyle knows what I am going to decide, but he told me to have the interview because being considered for the second and third officer positions looks good on a guy’s records. So, you’ve considered me, and I’ve decided that because of my concerns about being able to perform my most important duty in an alert situation, I’ve respectfully asked to be dropped from consideration.”
“Fair enough, Ronnie,” Kyle said. “Do you agree Devin?”
“Totally,” Devin replied.
“Thanks, guys, for thinking enough of me to consider me. Maybe at a different time down the line I’ll look at things differently.”
Kyle saw Ronnie to the door and gave his big brother a hug. Devin couldn’t help but think about the contrasts between the two. One contrast was their skin color, of course, and the other was how much bigger Ronnie was than Kyle. Ronnie was above average in size for a sixteen-year-old, while Kyle was smaller than average for a thirteen-year-old. But he knew that when it came to brain power, both were well above average, pushing well into the genius range, which made for a powerful pair of senior officers.
After Ronnie and Devin left, Kyle took a ten-minute break before calling Quinn Hansen in for his second interview for the assistant security officer position. Kyle knew that the second interview would be perfunctory since he trusted Kage’s judgement. The only way that Quinn would not get the position would be if he totally bollixed up his interview.
Since he didn’t need a second opinion for this interview, Kyle dismissed Devin, telling him he wanted him to report back to him in half an hour.
That didn’t happen, however, and after a quick and efficient fourteen-minute interview, Kyle officially offered Quinn the job. Quinn officially accepted the job instantly. Kyle officially congratulated him and called Kage to the ready room. Kage arrived within a minute. He shook Quinn’s hand, then gave him a hug. The two then scurried out of the ready room to meet with the security/tactical team and give them the good news.
Kyle knew who he wanted to interview next for the third officer position, and that was Brad Kanye, the information chief. Devin entered the ready room at the time he was expected, brought a chair over to Kyle’s desk, and sat down.
“Great pick for the security supervisor,” Devin told Kyle. “Quinn is impressive.”
“Thanks, Devin,” Kyle responded. “It’s good to know that we have impressive people on our crew.”
“Oh yes we do, from the captain on down,” Devin grinned.
Kyle let the compliment pass and changed the subject to the third officer position. “I’m looking at Brad as third officer now that Ronnie has officially turned the position down.”
“I was hoping he would be your choice.”
“Shall we set up an interview for after lunch or put it off until tomorrow?”
“What’s your preference?” Devin asked.
“First officers aren’t supposed to give evasive answers to questions. That’s the captain’s job.”
“In that case, I’ll give you my straight answer. The positive side is that tomorrow will give us time to prepare. The negative side to this is that the Information Services staff will not be meeting on the ship tomorrow so we would either have to take a shuttle down to meet him or he would have to leave Nelson in charge of running their meeting. He’s going to be good, but he’s nowhere near ready to take charge of an entire meeting this early in his career. Scheduling an interview with those issues facing us will make it look like we’re willing to rush important decisions, which is not the impression we want to give.”
“As usual you are spot on. The entire crew will be on board on Saturday, so let’s schedule our interview them,” Kyle said. “That will give the impression that the decision is important enough to get it done as soon as is reasonably possible, but it won’t leave the impression that we have to rush it. I’ll inform Brad what we plan to do so he can make his plans accordingly. Now, let’s get some lunch.”
<Captain’s ready room, Space Fleet Starship SS Liberty>
Captain Eric St. Pierre handed a printout to his yeoman, Petty Officer Mary Fitzhugh. “Here’s the list of documents addressed to me that arrived over the last twelve hours.”
Mary looked at the printout for a couple of seconds and let out a sigh. “Fifteen documents over the last twelve hours?” she asked. “Space Fleet must be getting lazy or something—I was expecting double that amount.”
“I wouldn’t complain if I were you seeing as you’re getting them all at once instead of spread out.”
“Oh, I wasn’t complaining, I was expressing my unbridled joy. Bryce and his crew seem to have reached a dead end in getting my computer and Drake’s to accept your messages.”
Three of the ship’s computer stations were programmed to receive the captain’s official messages: the captain’s, the captain's yeoman’s, and the first officer’s. Over the past week only the captain’s stations were receiving them. Commander Bryce Hanson, the chief of information services, and his computer techs, were able to determine that what the problem was—the mainframe was interpreting all the captain’s official mail to be Top Secret, which only the captain’s computer could receive. The issue now was, what do they do about it?
“Has Space Fleet gotten back as to how to solve the problem, or are they clueless?” Mary asked.
“You need to cut the poor wage slaves at HQ a little slack,” St. Pierre grinned. “They have been working long hours to help figure this out.”
“And racking up a nice bundle of overtime while they’re at it.”
“You sound a bit envious?”
“No way I’m envious. I wouldn’t trade positions with those nerds for double my salary. I get to enjoy the wonders of deep space while they’re locked on the ground wondering which bar to stop at on the way home.”
“You are such a cynic.”
“And proud of it, sir, as you well know. Now, my station might not be receiving your messages, but it will perform all the duties it’s set up to do if enter the information from your computer. As a result, I’m going to my station and getting to work.” She started out of the ready room and then stopped and turned around. “Oh, and a reminder that Dr. Fletcher has set a 1400 appointment for your physical.” Yeoman Fitzhugh then left the room as Commander Arnold “Arnie” Baylor, the first officer, and Lieutenant Commander Sarah Penny, the second officer and operations chief, were preparing to enter.
“It sounds as if messages from HQ are being received by us,” Arnie said as he and Sarah took seats.
“They are, but Mary has to jump through a shitload of hoops to download them to her computer so she can work with the documents they contain,” Eric said. “This old bucket is definitely ready to retire.”
The Liberty was the oldest starship in the fleet. Ironically, it was the first of Liberty class ships to be built and the last of the five Liberty class ships still active. In their prime they were Space Fleet’s largest starships. The other four Liberty class ships had been retired. They had become the smallest starships in the fleet and were long past their prime.
The Kennedy, Hood, Hercules, and Viscount had all been retired over the last seven years, with the Viscount being the last to go. It was scrapped three years ago. The Kennedy and Hood had been converted to passenger carriers traveling from Earth to Saturn carrying passengers to the Galactic Space Travel Museum located on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. The Hercules was orbiting Titan as a museum display. The Liberty, had managed to outlast them, but it was now in need of retirement as well. Eric knew that the exploration mission they were on would be the last mission for the old girl before it faced the cutting torch.
Eric had decided that he was ready to retire as well. He had been the captain ship’s captain for fourteen years and the captain of the Liberty for just over ten years. He was second in years served as well as physical years to Ryan O’Malley of the Rigel among starship captains. He felt it appropriate that he retire at the same time as the ship that he had served on for a third of his career.
“What’s this about you needed a physical?” Sarah asked. “I thought you were close to retirement.”
“If Space Fleet regulations say I’m due for a physical, that means I am due for a physical. And as you both know, unlike some bureaucratic claptrap, this one actually makes a modicum of sense.”
A vibration shook the ship and the lights flickered. “I wonder what that was,” Eric said. He quickly called Chief Engineer Dennis McDonough on his communicator.
“What was that, chief?” Eric asked.
“We had a brief energy surge, Captain. I’ll get back to you as soon as I find the cause.”
“Very well, chief…get back to work.” He disconnected and looked over to his two senior officers. “We can’t get back to Earth soon enough,” he said.
“We just left Star OC 4 yesterday,” Arnie said. Star OC 4 was a star Omicron Leonis star system, which was located the Leo constellation. The Liberty was in the midst of a four-month mission mapping and exploring the system.
“I know, and that’s the scary part. We still have a lot more to explore,” Sarah said.
With that, another vibration shook the ship.
Thirty-five minutes later, Chief McDonough reported to Eric that he had found the source of vibrations. “It appears that a condenser is leaking air. The issue should have appeared on my instruments but didn’t; I had to do some serious searching to find the leak. We had a condenser in our parts storeroom, and it’s now installed.”
“Excellent. That was good, quick job Dennis,” Eric said.
“It would have taken less than half the time if the flaw had shown up on the instruments; in fact, we would have learned of the leak before it even became an issue if the instruments had caught it. The leak occurred because the condenser was…are you ready for this?...old.”
“Why didn’t the instruments pick up on it?”
“That I’m not yet sure of. I do know that they are reading perfectly at the moment. The staff and I will be giving that meter constant attention.”
“Thanks, as always. How about joining Arnie, Mary, and me for lunch in the officer’s mess."
“I’ll see you there,” Dennis said.
Harely Benson sat in his living room with his protégé Donald Nixon. “Thanks for treating me to dinner, Harley. It was super good. I’m glad you ordered Mexican,” Don said. Harley had ordered takeout from the best Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas. He didn’t take Donald out to dinner since he felt that he and Don should not be seen together until their triumph over the Robinson family was complete.
“We both have a love for Mexican food in common,” Harley grinned.
“I wish Everett could have joined us. I mean, who would have seen him here?”
“You know why—for this plan to work we have to be as anonymous as possible, especially me. Even if no one sees or recognizes Everett, he will see me and, at least as we get this plan off the ground, I don’t want anybody to be put in the position of having to identify me to the powers that be.”
“Except for me, of course,” Don said.
“That’s because you’re my boy. You and I both think alike here. When it comes to the Robinsons, we both thirst for revenge. Before I grill you for information, let’s have ice cream for dessert.”
After they each enjoyed two scoops of vanilla ice cream bathed in chocolate sauce before resuming their meeting, Harley asked Donald who he had recruited for the cabal and their departments.
“Well, there’s me and Everett of course, and we’re both in science. Mark Winters is in tactical, and Wade Green is in engineering. I’m working on Randy Knox in information systems. I’d like somebody in operations but damn they’re a weird bunch. They act like they’re the ones who will really make the ship function and screw everyone else.”
“You still need astrogation,” Harley said. “I have a name for you to take a look at: Ben Kennedy. He will be arriving Monday on the Sooloo. I hear he has a real resentment against Kyle. I think he has some navigation experience.” Harley had used his position as a senior admiral to get access to Ben Kennedy’s records.
“This is why I gotta get me somebody in operations. I would be able to find out a lot of shit on the guys I’m looking at. I do know from what Randy Knox told me is that Kennedy’s gonna be assigned to info services.”
Harley nodded and said,” I hear Kennedy has in for Brad Kanye more than he does for Kyle.”
“He sounds like just the kind of guy we need,” Don said.
“I agree. Be sure to greet him as soon as you can after he arrives.”
“I will. My gut tells me he could be huge for our group.  Which reminds me, us guys feel our group needs a name.”
“Something we can talk about next time. Remember, we’ll need your group to create as much chaos as you can to start breaking the little shit captain down. But, as we’ve discussed before, unless we can come up with a fantastic idea that will break Kyle without bringing serious harm to the ship and its crew, we’re going to need some kind of outside interest to be the straw that breaks little Mr. Robinson’s back.
“But that will be for later discussion as well. I think it’s time for you to sneak out and ride your bike home.” Don had an electric bicycle that Harely had given him to make his forays to Harley’s home harder to trace.
After Don left, Harvey contemplated the evening’s discussions. He had told young Donald that the goal was to ruin Kyle Robinson without bringing harm to the ship or its crew. But that was to keep him thinking that the final goal of his takeover was his taking command of the Heinlein. That goal would keep him and his minions in line. But what Harley really wanted was the for serious harm to happen to the ship and its crew, up to and including complete destruction. That was because Harley’s ultimate goal was the to bring down Greg Robinson the way Robinson had brought him down.
The bastard was pissed because with my behind the scenes encouragement my engineering staff found ways to stall questions about issues that the ships’ little boy engineers brought up with the Space Fleet staff when they couldn’t figure out the simplest problem with their engines. What did he think, that my highly trained staff was going to stroke the egos of a bunch of lazy, stupid teens who wouldn’t know an energy surge from a meteor strike? We came to their assistance, but not until after we told the dumb shits to do some research. Is it my fault they are clueless? What the fuck do they expect when they have children operating a multi-billion-dollar piece of machinery?
Kyle told Danny and Ronnie he wanted to have a chat with them after dinner in the rec room. After eating and helping with the after-dinner cleanup they headed to the rec room. Koji and Duskin didn’t want to be left out of the fun and joined their dads and their Uncle Ronnie. Since they would be discussing a topic that was relevant to the two young boys and wasn’t sensitive Kyle had no problem with the two youngsters joining them.
Kyle sat on the big, overstuffed chair with Koji perched contentedly on his lap. Duskin, Danny, and Ronnie sat on the couch with Duskin snuggled between his Iosta (Uncle) Ronnie and opsola Danny. Both boys were so comfortable they all but purred.
“Believe it or not guys, the official launch is just ten days away and we’ll be heading to our first destination,” Kyle said.
“And we’ll going to Marsh,” Koji said, pleased that he could share this bit of knowledge in an important meeting.
“Very good, deevdru (son),” Kyle grinned as he ruffled his son’s thick hair.
“But there’s something you’re looking forward to even more that will be starting on Monday, and I know you two deevdrui know what that is,” Danny said.
“School with Ali on the Heinlein starts on Monday,” Duskin shouted out proudly.
“And it will be lots and lots of fun,” Koji added. “We get to be in school with your new friends and Ali makes things fun to learn.”
“He makes us behave. And he even makes Koji behave most of the time.”
“And moving along, not only will the boys get to know each other better in school, but the crew will get to know each other better on the ship on Monday, too,” Kyle said.
“Yep, it will be the first time the crew stays overnight on the ship,” Ronnie said.
“And on Tuesday,” Koji said. “Koji and Duskin get to stay both nights, too,” Koji said. “Right Opsola Kyle?”
“Right,” Kyle replied. “But how should you have said it?”
Koji thought for a moment and then said, “I should have said me and Duskin get to stay both nights. Oh, no, wait. I should have said Duskin and me get to stay all of nights.”
“You’re close. But the exact right way to say it is Duskin and I get to stay BOTH of the nights.”
“I’ll ask Ali about it since you’re my opsola and captain and he is my teacher.”
“I guarantee you that Ali will say the same thing. But, moving on one more time, yes, Koji, you and Duskin and the rest of your classmates get to spend both nights on the Heinlein.”
“I know what my love is looking forward to the most, and that happens in a week,” Danny smirked.
“And I know you mean the big banquet and party next Thursday. And you KNOW from listening to me that I am not looking forward to that in any way,” Kyle groaned.
“But think of all the rich ladies and sweet girls who will want to hug the cutest captain in the Explorer Fleet and probably Space Fleet as well.”
“I’ll let my sexy husband protect me from the onslaught. In the meantime, I’d rather think of racing to Mars on Sunday, October 25 in our beautiful ship.”
“I’d rather think of tomorrow and meeting with my engineering staff at HQ to discuss the modular makeup of the engines and how to use that to our advantage to make quick repairs if any are needed,” Ronnie said.
“I’ll be around all day watching the various classes,” Kyle said. 
The support staff would be on board the Heinlein the next day with the rest of the crew engaging in seminars put on by the Academy and by the various department heads at Space Fleet Headquarters. Kyle would remain on Earth and Devin would be the Explorer commander of the Heinlein for the day. Kyle would mostly be looking in on the seminars to see how his senior staff handled their meetings. Danny would be heading into space with his fighter pilots for a day of creating battle formations as well as escort formations.
The meeting then broke up. Tomorrow would be the last day at the Academy class for Koji and Duskin and they hustled to their bedroom before being told to go to bed. They both felt grown up for being allowed to participate in the meeting and wanted to show they were capable of doing what they were supposed to do without being told to do it.
Next: Food for Thought