Aiden and I were discussing how we wanted everything set up when the comm went off. Aiden answered it, "This is Commander Douglass, what can I do for you?" While Aiden and I are Lt. Commanders, we learned quickly that when talking, you normally leave the Lieutenant off. It still sounds a little weird calling ourselves commanders, at least to me.
"Sirs, this is Lieutenant Boyer in the shuttle bay, requesting both of you to come down here, please."
Aiden told him that we would be down right away. We arrived and instead of Lieutenant Boyer, we were greeted by Commander Collins and Colonel Savage. We picked up our pace and gave both men hugs. Then Darla stepped out of the shuttle along with Phil and we greeted them.
I asked, "What are you doing here? Not that we mind, but… we thought you weren’t going to make it. You never responded to our invites."
"This will be our last chance to see you for thirty years," Savage answered. "I’m sorry that we never replied, but we weren’t a hundred percent sure that we would be able to make it."
Collins added, "And we would rather surprise you like this than to have said we would be here and end up disappointing you."
Aiden gave Tom an extra hug and agreed, "We definitely like the surprise better. Would you like a tour of the ship?"
Tom chuckled, "Of course we would."
Aiden got excited and almost jumped into Tom’s arms. We took the lift to the Bridge and I was showing everyone the Engineering Console, then Aiden explained the Tactical Station. He pulled up the space in front of the ship on the main screen. We could see the SS Jordan Paxton and the SS Truphan in their dry docks, waiting for their crews. Aiden tapped a few keys and had the Truphan targeted. He said, "If we were at war with them, I could send a torpedo right up Truphan’s rear right now, but then… if we were at war, she wouldn’t be such an easy target."
I whispered, "I know someone whose rear you can send your torpedo up." And Aiden started turning red.
Tom asked, "Are you alright?"
"Ummm, yeah," Aiden spit out, "Connor just whispered something to me."
"OH!" Phil smirked, "Did it have anything to do with what you said?"
Aiden was turning brighter red, "Kind of… can we change the subject?" Everyone laughed, guessing what I whispered, and I started turning red, too.
We headed down to Engineering where I began explaining everything to them.
I was pleased when I got the word that Jace's uncles were on the 1300 shuttle instead of the 1330. That extra half-hour will be better for all. I was puzzled though, when I read there were three of them, not the two I had expected.
As the door to the shuttle opened, I saw two men and a little boy disembark. I approached and asked, "Misters Leo and Ashton Blackwell?"
"Yes, I'm Leo and this is my husband Ashton."
Dave looked at the small boy, took a knee so he could look the boy in the eye and asked, "And who is this handsome young cadet?"
The boy moved to hide behind one of the men who looked at him and said, "It's okay, tell him your name."
Timidly he said, "I'm Mattoo Blackwell, I'm happy to meet you."
"Why don't we find Jace then?" Dave extended his hand and the boy looked up at the men, who nodded. He took Dave's hand and they made their way to Jace's quarters.
Along the way Leo asked, "So, you're the man Jace is marrying? He's got damn good taste in his men. You're gorgeous."
Dave laughed and replied, "No, he's marrying someone else, but I think you'll be just as pleased with the looks of his future husband."
When we got to Jace's quarters, Mattoo let go of my hand and stepped between Leo and Ashton. Jordan came to the door.
Jace and I added walls to make our quarters more like a home and that provided some privacy so the men in the family dressed for the wedding in our bedroom, while Mom and Jace’s Mom dressed in the portion Jace and I had set up for dining. They had Christmas with them. We had just finished dressing when I heard the door chime. I went to open it and Captain Bowman was there along with two men and a boy. One man looked a lot like Jace’s Dad so I surmised who they might be. "Would you like to come in?" I invited.
The one I guessed was Uncle Leo replied, "That depends, are we at the right spot? This cute little ensign brought us to these quarters."
With a chuckle, Dave responded, "I'm the Captain, thank you very much, and you're pretty good looking yourself, Sir."
"OH, I am so sorry," Uncle Leo apologized. "I would think that escorting guests would be beneath a Captain, but I am glad that this ship has one who doesn’t think so. Then I believe these must be the right quarters. I can see an ensign mistakenly taking us to the wrong ones, but not a handsome, smart-looking Captain."
"Who will be getting married in less than an hour, please come in," I chimed.
Dave said, "Jace, Jordan, I'm sure you'll understand if I don't stay. I seem to have a wedding to get to and I still need to change."
Jace came over and replied, "I understand, Sir, but who are these people? I've never seen them before."
"I think I'll let your grandfather explain; I'll see you in 40 minutes, Commander, and you damn well better not be late!"
"I’ll make sure he's not," I chuckled.
As Jason came out of the bedroom, Leo saw his brother and started toward the door. Jace’s dad called out, "Leo, I am sorry that I have been such an ass. I deserve you never wanting to speak with me, but you were invited here for your nephew’s wedding. He hasn’t done anything to you, in fact, I was such an ass that I never even told him about you until Dad brought your name up."
"Then, you don’t mind anymore that I am gay?" Leo asked, sounding skeptical.
"I almost made the same mistake with Jace as I did with you. When he told me that he was gay, I threw him out of my house," Jason explained. "I was a fool for treating you like I did, and I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but as I said, Jace hasn’t done anything wrong. Please, stay for him." Leo moved toward his brother and offered a hug. Jason wrapped his arm around him and said, "I’m so sorry. I realize now that being gay doesn’t change who you are and I missed out on having you as a brother for all these years. You always were the smarter one of us."
Wiping the tears from his brother’s face, Leo whispered, "I forgive you, we both missed out, and so did our children. I’d like to introduce you to Ash and our son, Mattoo."
The boy who was with them held out his hand, and said, "Pleased to meet you, sir." Jason didn’t take it, instead, he got down on his knee and held out his arms for a hug. I thought I saw a tear running down Leo’s cheek.
After hugging his nephew, Jason picked the ten-year-old boy up in one arm and then said, "Leo, this is your nephew Jason, but I call him Jace." He placed his other arm around Jace.
Leo asked, "So do you prefer Jason or Jace?"
"Mom’s the only one who ever calls me Jason any more, and when she does, I’m usually in trouble," Jace joked.
"Well Jace," Leo replied, "I’m glad to finally meet you. This is your Uncle Ashton, but I like calling him Ash. I understand you are gay AND getting married, but not to that handsome captain?"
Jace laughed, "No, that ‘handsome Captain’ will be marrying his own man, which you’ll see in a bit. I’ll be marrying someone I think is even more handsome, he’s the most handsome guy in this room. And he’s the one who let you in."
Leo shook his head, "Mattoo is the most handsome guy in the room, but I’m guessing the second one is that young man who answered the door."
Grandpa Jake declared, "I am happy to see this reunion, but we need to get seated."
I am nervous.
In twenty minutes, Hal and I will be getting married. I know there's no basis for it, but I'm nervous. More nervous about that than the mission we're all about to embark upon.
As I'm pondering this I feel a hand on my shoulder. I know who it is, it couldn't be anyone else. Without turning around, I say, "Why am I nervous, Bill?"
"Dave, if you weren't, I'd send you to see the base shrink. You're seventeen and you are making a huge commitment. You and Hal were meant to be together; look at him over there talking to his mother. He's happy, Dave, and you make him happy. I'm proud of you."
I looked at him, "Proud of me, why?"
"I've been watching you as you grew over the years. Your father and I served together and the day you were born was the happiest day in his life. Before he died, I promised I'd look after you. Everything you did, you did on your own. All I did was open a door for you here and there."
"Why didn't you tell me before?"
"Did you see how Kyle Robinson was? He said he had his dad to keep him from getting in too much trouble. He's only one example of the kids of the Admiralty. I didn't want that to happen to you."
"Thanks, Bill. I couldn't have had a better role model."
"Well, it's about time... you ready to get hitched?"
Standing here awaiting the start of this happy occasion, I'm looking at those assembled, as the music starts and I see Jason Blackwell and Jordan Rivers walking toward me. This is probably the best duty a command rank officer can have, the joining of two people.
As they pass their crewmates and their loved ones, I can see the smiles, but I can see the pride they all hold for these two fine young men. When they arrive, they turn toward the back as David Bowman and Hal Tietokone make their way to the front.
Having all four present I begin, "Ladies and Gentlemen, let's get these two joined, shall we?"
"From Plato's Symposium…"
"Love is our best friend, our helper, and the healer of the ills that prevent us from being happy. To understand the power of love, we must understand that our original human nature was not like it is now, but different.
"Human beings each had two sets of arms, two sets of legs, and two faces looking in opposite directions. There were three sexes then: one comprised of two men called the children of the Sun, one made of two women called the children of the Earth, and a third made of a man and a woman, called the children of the Moon. Due to the power and might of these original humans, the Gods began to fear that their reign might be threatened. They sought for a way to end the humans’ insolence without destroying them.
"It was at this point that Zeus divided the humans in half. Each of us when separated, having one side only, is but the indenture of a person, and we are always looking for our other half. Those whose original nature lies with the children of the Sun are men who are drawn to other men, those from the children of the Earth are women who love other women, and those from the children of the Moon are men and women drawn to one another.
"When one of us meets our other half, we are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other's sight even for a moment. We pass our whole lives together, desiring that we should be melted into one, to spend our lives as one person instead of two, and so that after our death there will be one departed soul instead of two; this is the very expression of our ancient need. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called Love."
Bill Mirah paused a moment to let his words sink in then continued, "It all began when David held the door open for Hal at the Academy, and they saw each other for the first time. David, Hal, do you remember that very moment? David, can you still feel the weight of the door in your hand. Hal, can you remember the pleasure of a suddenly opened door? Did you ever dream it would lead to a day like this? Can you believe it? It’s real. It’s happening. It’s even more marvelous than you’ve ever dreamed."
"For our other couple, it began when, quite by chance, they were thrust together. Jace, do you remember what you thought when you first saw Jordan? Jordan, do you remember how you felt when you two first kissed? Over time, Jace and Jordan grew together and I was certain they'd end up together."
"If our couples would face each other and take each other’s hands so that you may see the gift that they are to you. These are the hands of your best friend, strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow and forever."
"These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch will comfort you like no other."
"These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it, support and encouragement to pursue your dreams, and comfort in difficult times. And lastly,"
"These are the hands that even years from now will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just one touch."
"At this time, the couples would like to recite their vows."
Jordan took Jace’s hand and looked in his eyes. He swallowed hard before speaking, “Jason Patrick Blackwell, Jace, when I arrived at the Academy, I was given a dorm room that was empty. For a week, I had the pleasure of having that room all to myself, and then, Colonel Savage brought you into my life. I knew the moment I laid eyes upon you, that week would feel empty compared to having you with me. As much as I enjoyed my life, I discovered that it was empty before I met you. You are the reason that I strive for greatness, because I see how great you are. You often tell me that you are not worthy of me, but you have it backwards, it is I who am not worthy of you. I’m just thankful that with true love, worth isn’t a factor. I vow that I will always love you, through sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part and beyond.” Jordan reached down and took Jace’s grandfather’s ring from the pillow held by Jace's cousin, Mattoo and slipped it onto Jace's finger.
Jace then took Jordan’s hand and said, “I remember that first day we met. Seeing you, I was speechless. I thought I was in the presence of a young Greek god because you seemed so perfect. I strive for perfection, but you were granted it at birth. And I couldn’t believe that someone as perfect as you would call me gorgeous. Jordan Andrew Rivers, I love you with all my heart, I have since the day we met, and I will for all eternity.” He reached down to the pillow, smiling at his cousin, then slipped the ring his grandfather had given to him onto Jordan’s finger.
"Jason Patrick Blackwell, do you take Jordan Andrew Rivers to be your husband, for now and until the end of days?"
"I do, Sir."
"And do you, Jordan Andrew Rivers take Jason Patrick Blackwell to be your husband, for now and until the end of days?"
"I do, Sir."
After a momentary pause, Mirah continued, "David and Hal, your vows please."
"Henry Adam Louis Tietokone, Hal, you are the single most important person to me in the universe. From the time we met there hasn't been a day that went by that I didn't feel that my life had been enriched by merely knowing you. As our friendship blossomed into love, that enrichment has multiplied."
"When my mother passed away, it was you who held me as I cried. It was you who told me that things would be okay, that I would be okay. With the help of your mother, Mama, things turned out much better than just, okay."
"We are about to embark on two different, but equally important, journeys. One into outer space and the other being the beginning of our life together. Whereas the former has an apparent definite conclusion, it is my hope that the latter will last until the end of time."
"I promise to love, honor, and cherish you. Through sickness and in health. To protect you from the perils we are destined to face; whatever they may be. I promise to support you and comfort you."
"All of this I say to you from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul."
"All that being said, the Admiral wouldn't be happy unless I said that the previous comments shall only apply to the extent allowed by Space Fleet Protocols."
Mirah looked at Dave and shook his head. He looked at Hal and said, "Are you really sure you want to marry a smartass?"
Along with everyone present, Hal laughed and said, "I'm more sure of that than the fact that my first name is really Henry."
"Very well, would you like to give him your vows?"
"Yes, Sir. David James Bowman, you've been an inspiration to everyone around you since before you and I met. I was just the lucky one who caught your eye and was able to keep it. I love you more with every breath that I take. Talking with my mother last night, she told me that she wasn't losing a son. She was watching the two young men she cared for most being joined together. She knows that you and I were meant to be."
"I promise to obey you, and not just because you're my superior officer. I promise to protect you, and not because you're a terrible shot. I promise to care for you when you're sick, and not because you're secretly afraid of holograms. But most of all I promise to be yours from now and until our death."
Mirah told the two to face one another. "David James Bowman, do you take Henry Adam Louis Tietokone to be your husband, for now and until the end of days?"
"I do, Sir."
"And do you, Henry Adam Louis Tietokone take David James Bowman to be your husband, for now and until the end of days?"
"I do, Sir."
Dave took the ring from the pillow held by Jace's cousin, then he took Hal's hand and said, "This ring is a symbol of my love for you, it has no beginning and no end, just as my love has no beginning nor end. With this ring, I thee wed."
Mirah smiled, "Henry."
Hal reached to the pillow taking the remaining ring, he took Dave's hand and placed that ring upon his finger saying, "David James Bowman, this ring belonged to my great grandfather. It has been handed down through the generations and the first male child to be wed could use it to symbolize the eternity of love. So, with this ring, I wed thee from now and for eternity."
Mirah called Jason and Jordan over then stood between the couples, looking at them and said, "Henry Adam Louis Tietokone, David James Bowman and Jordan Andrew Rivers, Jason Patrick Blackwell. By the powers vested in me by the Space Fleet Admiralty, I pronounce you to be joined in marriage. You may kiss your husband. Ladies and Gentlemen, for the purposes of this mission these four will retain their original last names, but in all unofficial capacity, allow me to introduce to you, Misters David and Henry, Hal, Bowman and Misters Jason and Jordan Blackwell. Congratulations to four fine young men."
Lt. Boyer approached Kyle during the reception, "I'm sorry to bother you, Sir, but I was told to inform you that you are needed on the bridge, Sir."
"Isn't Lt. Luke up there?"
"Yes, Sir, but he said he was having a problem and needed you to come up and assist him, Sir."
Kyle was not pleased with having to leave the reception, but more importantly, his father. He turned to his dad and said, "I'm sorry, Dad, but I have been told I'm needed on the bridge. I'll be back as soon as I can."
Admiral Gregory Robinson smiled upon hearing the conversation between the Lieutenant and his son. The boy had grown into a well-respected officer; he was more proud than ever. "Of course, Son. I've been in the service a long time and know what it is like when you are needed by your men. I'll be here when you return."
The two hugged and Kyle left to attend to the 'problem' on the bridge. He intended to let Lt. Luke know, in no uncertain terms, that he was not pleased to be summoned during the reception.
Almost as soon as Kyle had left, Captain Bowman approached Admiral Robinson. After he saluted the superior officer, Captain Bowman asked if he and the Admiral could have a chat. Receiving Admiral Robinson's agreement, he led the Admiral to his ready room. Once there he asked the Admiral to take a seat and offered him a beverage.
"Is there a problem I need to know about, Captain," asked the Admiral.
"No, Sir, quite the opposite, in fact. I arranged for Kyle to be called away because I wanted to talk to you without his knowing." Admiral Robinson started to object, but Dave continued, "Sir, before you object, I wanted to let you know how far I've seen your son grow in the past year. He started out as a cantankerous, unruly child and through it all he has changed. He's now one of my most trusted officers here. His abilities in Astrogation are more natural than any of the others I interviewed. I will be honest, I was a bit upset when it was proved that Kyle's score on the Astrogation exam was higher than mine, but seeing him in action, I know now that he deserved it."
As the smile on Gregory Robinson's face grew, Bowman continued, "Were you aware, Sir, that Kyle detected, and corrected, a minor error in the alignment of the lenses in the shipboard telescopes on these exploration vessels?"
Gregory Robinson simply shook his head. He was a bit choked up hearing the praise being given about his son. Captain Bowman continued, "Sir, he realigned the telescope here, on the Sooloo. When we had a staff meeting, he brought this correction up, in front of Admiral Mirah. He had to explain himself fully and he didn't falter. He knew he was correct and he exhibited more confidence than I had ever seen him show. In the end, Admiral Mirah agreed that Kyle's correction was of benefit and ordered the entire fleet's telescopes reconfigured using the 'Robinson Correction.'
"I wanted you to be informed regarding your son's development. But if I may make one more observation, since Kyle has come aboard the ship, his confidence level has been even higher. I can only attribute that to your arrival at the space port and the subsequent discussions you've had with your son. Thank you, Sir."
"Captain, no, thank you. I wasn't aware of the 'Robinson Correction,' but you are right, it makes me very proud to know that my Kyle was responsible for it. I hope you take care of my son while you are out there doing your jobs, but I don't want you giving him any special treatment because he's my son. You are right, he has shown that he is a very capable officer, and from what I hear, that is partially because of you. Kyle has told me of some of your talks and I wanted to thank you for taking him under your wing. I will look forward anxiously to your return in thirty years."
The two men stood and shook hands and returned to the reception.
Kyle Robinson arrived on the bridge and asked John Luke what the problem was. John Luke turned to him and said, "Problem, Sir? There's no problem. I put the calculations in as we discussed and they've been processing since the wedding ended and I came up here."
Kyle couldn't understand it, "Lt. Boyer came to me and said you needed me here."
Lt. Luke looked puzzled, "I'm sorry, Sir, I never requested you be bothered. I know that you want to spend as much time as you can with your father. I'd have asked for anyone else who is qualified to help if I needed it so as not to disturb your time with him."
Kyle looked at the display and saw that the calculations were over an hour into the process. He invited John Luke to join him at the reception for a short time. He said, "These calculations will run on their own. Why don't you come get some refreshment, then after half an hour or so, you can return to duty."
"Sir, are you ordering me to leave my post while on duty?"
Kyle laughed, "John, we're not in space yet, and we're ahead of our schedule for launch preparations. Even if the calculations fail, which is highly unlikely, we'll have time to restart them after a correction is made. So, if I need to order you to come get some food and drink, then consider yourself so ordered."
Laughing, the two youths left the bridge and returned to the reception. When they arrived, Kyle looked around and couldn't find his father. He saw Admiral Mirah talking with Jace Blackwell's grandfather, but couldn't find his father.
He looked everywhere, then he turned and saw the door to the Captain's ready room open and his father and Captain Bowman exiting and laughing. They approached Kyle and Captain Bowman said, "I take it you corrected the problem I sent Lt. Boyer over to tell you about?"
"You sent him, Sir?" Kyle replied.
"Kyle, I needed to talk to your dad, and I didn't want you to know... until now."
Kyle looked at his commanding officer, then at his father and noticed the smile on his dad's face. Gregory Robinson then got on his knees so he and his son could be face to face. He then hugged his son and with a tear in his eye said, "I am so proud of you, Son. Captain Bowman has just given me a report on your development... totally of his own volition, not under orders to do so. Your actions have made me so proud and I look forward to hearing all about your adventure upon your return in 30 years."
I grabbed Jordan and then we found Uncle Leo, Uncle Ash and Mattoo. Uncle Leo apologized, "I am so sorry that I didn’t make an effort to get to know you."
I had to ask, "Did you even know I was born?"
Leo looked down, "Papa told me, and this is no excuse, but I didn’t think Jason would have let me see you."
I placed my hand on Uncle Leo’s shoulder, "At the time, he probably wouldn’t have, Uncle Leo. You don’t owe me an apology, I’m just glad that I finally got to meet you."
Uncle Leo smiled at me, "And I am glad to meet you and Jordan. Too bad we can’t go on this mission with you and really get to know you."
Jordan gave Uncle Leo a smile, "We'll look forward to seeing you when we return."
As Connor, Aiden, Javier, Tom and Darla were talking, Phil took the microphone and said, "I have a few songs that I would like to sing to the happy couples." Then he started to sing, "I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord… And I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord… Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, oh Lord…"
As Phil was singing, Javier looked at Connor and asked, "So, when are you and Aiden going to get married?" Connor and Aiden both started coughing on their punch.
Aiden looked at Tom, who was eyeing him, waiting for an answer. Since Connor was still coughing, Aiden responded, "Remember, I am only fourteen and Connor is only thirteen. We have discussed getting married, but think we should wait a few years. While we are planning for Captain Bowman to marry us in space, we will want to have a special ceremony when we return to earth, so that you can be there."
Dave thought it might be a good idea to have one of the senior staff go down to the spaceport to give the crew a sense of belonging. It was thought that if one of the senior officers was willing to take time to welcome them to the crew, more than just waiting for their shuttle to arrive, it would send a message to them and their families that the senior staff cares. I was assigned this duty today, Jordan Rivers will be there tomorrow and Jace Blackwell will see to the third, and final day of the crew’s embarking.
It felt odd in a way, riding down on a shuttle. I know it'll become old hat, but since it's the first time I'm doing it, it feels odd. As we approach the spaceport, I see far more than the twenty crewmen assigned to board the shuttle today.
The capacity of the shuttles, other than pilot, is twenty personnel. When you factor the needed space for their gear and necessary supplies for the ship, that reduces the maximum capacity to eight crewmen. I would ride up with them as well. Since we had twenty scheduled for today, I had planned on four shuttles today. One each at 1000z, 1200z, 1400z and 1600z.
When I disembarked from the shuttle, I was amazed at what I saw. Our crewmen and their families ensconced in each other's arms. Everyone were tearfully saying goodbye for what essentially may be the last time for some of them. It was a very emotionally charged environment.
Once I was told that all those crewmen scheduled for today had checked in, I obtained access to the public-address system.
"Folks, if I can have your attention, please." I waited until I had their attention before continuing, "On behalf of the entire senior staff of the SS Sooloo, I want to welcome you to the grandest adventure anyone has undertaken in the history of our planet. You will be among the first of our species to travel distances that, until recently, had been thought to be unattainable. Your families must be proud of what you've already accomplished; imagine how they'll feel when we return with the knowledge we've amassed in our travels."
"To the families of our esteemed crew, I want to say, 'Thank you,' for supporting your son, brother, or nephew in this grand endeavor."
I met with several of the family members during the day. I only had two crewmen who needed a little 'brothering.' There was one young boy, who to me it was apparent it was his first time away from home. The entire way from the spaceport to the ship he sat next to me and cried. When we arrived he hung back to talk for a moment.
"I'm sorry, Sir. Saying goodbye to my mother was harder than I thought it would be. Thank you for being there."
"What's your name, Crewman?" I could tell that he was afraid he was in trouble, so I continued, "You're not in any kind of trouble, I just wanted to know."
"It's Randy Jenkins, Sir. I will be working in the galley as a cook's assistant."
"One of the most important jobs on the ship. Thank you, Randy. Please know, that if you ever want to just talk, you can let me know and I'll try my best to work it out to do just that."
He smiled and started grabbing his gear. As he walked away I couldn't help but notice how cute he was. Maybe thirteen or a young fourteen. I have no doubt he'll be much sought after.
The rest of the day was pretty much a repeat of the first. I have little doubt that Jordan or Jace will have any surprises, but either of them could handle just about anything that might come up.
I was sitting in the conference room, getting my notes in order before this final pre-launch meeting. Hal's been out making sure everything is going as it should, and I've been sitting here, being nervous.
Admiral Mirah will be here for this meeting, he said there was something he wanted to say before we launched. I'm hoping it's not just another 'pep-talk.' We really have too much to do to waste time with that sort of thing. I've had to deal with a few last-minute crew replacements; but that's not that big a deal. Normally, Jordan Rivers would handle them, but he's so damn busy, it makes me feel good to be able to do this little duty to help him out.
Bill Mirah entered the conference room about ten minutes before the meeting was to begin. As he entered, the rest of the senior staff start filtering in. At 1300 everyone is present except, surprising as it is to me, Jordan Rivers and Hal. I look over at Jace and I am sure he knows what I was about to ask; he just shrugged his shoulders.
Not wanting to wait, I decided to bring the meeting to order. "Ok, it looks like almost everyone is here, so let's get started. The agenda here is for each department to give a report on the readiness for launch. I need to hear any, and I can't emphasize enough, any problems you all are having. We launch in less than 24 hours and this one has to go according to the book."
"The order I am going to ask for reports is: Kyle with Astrogation, then Jace for Engineering with Connor and Brad for Information Systems. Once they're done, I'll have Aiden give the status of preparations for Security and Tactical. Hopefully, Jordan will be here soon and he can give his reports. Of course, Dr. Tom, if there is anything you need to bring up, now is the time for that also. Admiral Mirah asked to talk to all of you before we adjourn. So, does anyone have any questions?" Hearing none, I turned the meeting over to Kyle Robinson.
"Sir, the calculations for our initial departure have been checked and then double-checked. They've been entered into the navigation computer which also verified our results. With the assistance of the Engineering department, both John Luke and I have verified the status of both the standard and warp drives as being fully operational and ready. I have full confidence that we will have absolutely no problems with tomorrow's launch." Kyle seemed far more confident than I've ever known him to be. I was very proud of him at that moment.
Jace stood and said, "Sir, I am going to allow each department head to give his report and will stand ready if you need more clarification."
Connor Marlin then took to his feet and said, "Sir, the status of the engineering plant couldn't be any better. Initially we had a minor anomaly in the starboard engine but that was caused by a faulty relay in one of the secondary systems. It has subsequently been repaired and retested without any failure." He took his seat and Brad Kanye took his turn.
"The information system, including the ICARS system are functioning at 100% of specifications, Sir. We do not foresee any glitches there. There was a small anomaly in one of the holographic systems in sick bay, but Dr. Tom assures me that since we repaired it there has been no recurrence of any problems."
About that time, Jordan and Hal entered the room. I glared at Hal. He knows that I do not tolerate tardiness. The look I gave him said that there better be a damn good reason for it. He and Jordan took their seats as Aiden stood. After smiling at Connor, he turned to me and said, "Sir, Tactical is ready for any situation. I have been conducting drills with my Tactical Staff and they have proven the fact that they are also ready for just about anything. I have had some issues with some of the new Security Personnel, but I am confident they'll come around, especially with the training schedule I have set for them over the next couple of weeks, when we'll be leaving the solar system." Aiden is proving to be a very good choice for his position. In light of his issues with his Security Staff, his decision to delegate much of the day-to-day operation of Tactical to his assistant, Scott, at least initially, has shown he truly was ready to command.
I then turned to Commander Rivers, "Jordan, I hope your tardiness isn't an indication of things to come."
Jordan stood, and said, "I'm very sorry, Sir. Commander Tietokone and I just finished up a meeting with the team that was investigating the accident that happened in Richard Fries' quarters. The meeting went a bit long and I apologize for being late. It will not happen again, except in equally important occasions."
I nodded to him that his excuse was acceptable. He visibly relaxed, then started his report, "Sir, I'll start with the findings of the investigation. After examination of the remains of Commander Fries' terminal, with the help of the Engineering Department, it was found that he had brought with him a piece of equipment that he was trying to interface with the ship's power grid. Instead of asking for assistance, he tried to connect it himself. However he didn't connect it to a standard power line, he connected it to a high capacity plasma conduit. This caused the device and all other devices connected to the same line to explode due to the overload. Lt. Commander Fries is recovering at the base hospital and was interviewed. He has taken responsibility for the accident. I will be working with Jace and his crews to get the quarters repaired as soon as possible."
"So, it wasn't caused by any nefarious activity by any outside group?"
"No, Sir, it was simply someone trying to do something for which they were not trained." Jordan replied.
"Well, so maybe the HRH's diagnosis of him was correct. He did seem to have a chronic case of Cranial Rectosis." This got a bit of a laugh from the rest of those assembled, "Ok, Commander, please proceed."
"Thank you, Sir. All other areas of operations are ready for launch. Thank you for dealing with the last minute crew replacements. With all that has been going on, I'm looking forward to nothing more than the 'normal' stuff we'll be dealing with… if there is anything 'normal' about what we're going to see."
After consulting with Dr. Tom and Hal, finding neither had anything to add, I turned the meeting over to Admiral Mirah.
"Gentlemen, I want to commend each and every one of you. The reports I have just heard give me far more confidence than I had when I came up here today on the shuttle. Let me preface by saying, I have no intention of giving you all a 'pep-talk.' You have all been trained and have proven yourselves. Just know that I am proud of each and every one of you. I wish I were going with you. I do have one last piece of business to attend to before I get out of your hair." He walked over to me then asked me to stand.
"Commander David Bowman, it has come to the attention of the Admiralty that you have proven yourself time and time again to be a very competent and resourceful leader. The person in command of a star ship, regardless of actual rank is called "Captain" while on board their ship. However not every 'Captain' holds the actual rank. It is my great privilege today to promote you forthwith to the rank of Captain. Congratulations, Captain Bowman."
I was shocked. He pinned my new rank insignia to my uniform and then shook my hand. I couldn't help myself. This man had been a mentor for me since I could remember. I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a hug… one that was richly deserved.
The meeting broke up with each of my staff giving me congratulations. I told them all I'd expect them at breakfast in the Officer's dining room at 0700. I then dismissed them to continue their preparations for launch.
As the time for their departure approached, every senior staff officer was at his station, quietly awaiting Captain Bowman’s order. The silence was broken when the Captain calmly gave the order they all had been waiting to hear for so long. "Disengage umbilical cables."
Like the rest of the senior staff on the bridge, Kyle had been almost holding his breath with anticipation. When he heard Captain Bowman give his first order, his brain started going into spin dry mode, and not for the first time that morning. The self-doubts that haunt almost every young adolescent, often at the wrong times, hit Kyle Robinson with a vengeance.
As the umbilical cables disengaged, Captain Dave Bowman looked at Kyle without it being apparent he was looking. It was one of the little ‘Captain tricks’ that Admiral Bill Mirah had taught the fledgling captains in training. What Dave saw at the Astrogator’s Table was a little boy who was about to be asked to do something no boy his age had ever done before.
As the cables disconnected from the ship and her systems began operating on her own power, the lights dimmed for a split second before coming back to full strength. You could hear several officers sigh with relief, knowing that the ship was indeed ready. The Captain then gave the next order, "Disengage clamps."
After Dave ordered the clamps to be disengaged, he took another surreptitious glance at the young Chief Astrogator. Come on Kyle, he thought, you can do it. You have it in you. I believe in you. Dave had seen videos of some of Kyle’s basketball games. He’d seen the smallest boy on the court become a giant under pressure. Dave Bowman knew he’d made the right choice and the next few moments would prove it.
The crew throughout the ship could feel a slight shudder and hear the clatter of the clamps through the hull as they released the "Sooloo". Kyle felt the release of the clamps. He looked at The Table—at his table. This was his true home on the ship. Kyle took a quick look at Megrez sitting at the edge of The Table. He knew his crewmates had to think that having the stuffed penguin there for launch was beyond weird. But, many of them had seen Megrez at some time, and surmised it had "some kind of mystic" significance. Captain Bowman, Aiden and Connor were the only ones on the bridge with an inkling of the story behind the penguin. Nobody else knew the story or even knew the name of the stuffed animal. But, they respected the young astrogator enough to accept the presence of the little stuffed animal.
Dave and Bill had many discussions over time regarding Kyle. In their last one they both agreed "real life" was different from training in uncounted ways. How Kyle handled his first foray into "real life" would do more than all of the months of training in determining the kind of officer he would become.
The final command to leave the dock came, "Ease us out, Mr. Robinson." A moment of panic, a deep breath to pause his spinning mind, and then the voice of the stars centered in his brain telling him that they believed in him; Captain Bowman believed in him; his father believed in him; his crew mates not only believed but trusted in him; and most importantly, he believed in himself. At that moment, Dave saw the little boy in the chair become the confident point guard on the basketball floor, the confident batter at home plate, the confident officer in the morning meeting, assuring his fellow senior officers that he had the numbers under control. Dave saw the young man he and Bill Mirah had put their faith in.
Kyle touched the control in front of him, and with a slow and steady pace, Kyle set the ship’s course out of the space dock. The voyage of the "Sooloo" had begun with the kind of smoothness a veteran Space Fleet crew would have admired.