Devin French and a few other officers from various ships were aboard the Sooloo for the Shakedown Cruise. Devin had the enjoyment of telling Kyle about his new boyfriend, Lucius Hayes.
Corey started his first day of watch in Engineering. Then ended on the Bridge for the Launch. Hal and Jordan took a tour to the various departments to get a readiness report first hand. While in Engineering, Jordan encouraged Corey.
There was an air of excitement on the day the Sooloo initially departed on what was expected to be a 30-year mission. However, for some reason the excitement level for this mere shakedown cruise of 3 days seemed to surpass that several times over.
On the Bridge, Kyle had decided to take the helm personally. Will Crusoe was at the Astrogation station. All of the Chiefs of departments who have stations on the bridge were present leaving the Assistant Chiefs in their respective departments.
Hal was in his new Captain's chair flanked by Dave and Robert Crusoe. Next to Dave was Corey Adams, complete with his audio recorder (having acquired permission to audio record his comments on the launch as it happened).
"Mr. Crusoe," Hal intoned professionally, "are we ready to depart?"
Will turned and looked at his Captain and couldn't help but notice the beaming prideful smile on his father's face as he replied, "Astrogation reports green for launch, Sir."
Hal went through the checklist of departments and having received "Status Green" from each, turned to Dave. "Commodore, Sooloo is ready for departure."
"Thank you, Captain," Dave replied with a grin on his face. He had seated Corey next to him for a reason. "Cadet Adams, any comments?"
This question kind of took Corey by surprise but he found from within himself the ability not to get too flustered. "My only comment is that if this is a dream, I never want to wake up."
Dave smirked at this and replied, "You and me both, brother. Now, Mr. Adams, if you would, please give the order to depart space dock."
Corey was less successful in hiding his reaction, "OH MY GOD!! Really?"
Every officer on the Bridge had a laugh over that one when Dave leaned over and replied quietly, "Really, but try not to soil your underwear too often. The freshers are busy enough."
Corey blushed but smiled at that quip and in the most authoritative voice he could muster he stated, "Helm, by order of the Commodore and Captain, you are cleared to depart space dock."
Kyle grinned as he replied, "Aye, aye, Sir." He then deftly released the moorings and umbilicals, calling out each operation as he performed it and took the joystick controls for the engines into his hands. Within seconds, the Sooloo began to move.
As they cleared the space dock, everyone on the Bridge broke out into applause. Over the din, Hal ordered, "Astrogation, set course for Jupiter space, let's see what the Sooloo is capable of now."
Hal loved the excitement and enthusiasm permeating the Bridge as the Sooloo disengaged from its dock and slowly cleared the space dock. This was now his crew and he was proud of how hard they had prepared for this moment. The veterans were as enthused as the newcomers, but it was the newcomers who added an extra sense of pride in a job well-done.
The look on Will's face when he announced that Astrogation was green for launch was priceless. The sense of wonder surrounding Corey Adams was something Hal would never forget. If he didn't know better, he would swear that young Adams got a sexual charge from relaying the order that the Sooloo was cleared to depart the space dock. That young man is going to be something special someday. I must commend Kyle for seeing more to Corey Adams than an underachiever who equated bullying with leadership.
Once the order was given to make way for Jupiter space, Kyle coaxed the engines to a speed of 24% of the Speed of Light. Space Fleet Regulations restricted speeds within the plane of the ecliptic, that 23.5˚ bubble surrounding earth in relation to its orbit of the sun to 25% of the Speed of Light. Once outside of that, but technically still within the solar system, the speed limit increased to 50%.
The estimate given was that they would enter Jupiter Space and re-enter the ecliptic sometime between 1600 and 1700. Kyle could likely have given an exact time, probably to the second, of their arrival, but there was no need for that level of accuracy.
Thinking of Kyle made Hal look at the helm's chair where his Chief Astrogator, who had just skillfully moved the big starship through the crowded and busy spaceport, sat calmly. He had the feeling before launch that something was off in Kyle's demeanor. It wasn't as if Kyle was lacking in performance, his work in preparing for launch and at the helm met his usual high standards.
What he saw lacking in Kyle was the level of enthusiasm that was infecting everyone else on the Bridge. It was as if he was indifferent to the fervor on the Bridge and concerned only with his job. That was not at all like Kyle, who was always in tune with the feelings of his crewmates and often was the leader in expecting his crewmates to be enthusiastic about their jobs.
Hal sensed Kyle was burying how he really felt for some reason. The quick smile Kyle flashed when Corey had his big moment and cleared the Sooloo to depart told Hal that the Kyle he knew and respected and yes, loved, was on the Bridge at that moment. It's time I have a talk with the boy, Hal told himself.
With the Bridge filled beyond a normal watch crew, Hal felt this would be a good time to have that chat. He gave Kyle time to get the Sooloo up to the maximum cruising speed allowed this close to Earth.
"Commander Robinson, I would like to see you in my Ready Room to discuss our future course." Hal elected to make his request as vague as possible.
Before an order could be given, John Luke stood next to the helm's chair. "I can take over, Sir," he told Kyle. Kyle nodded, stood up and gave John room to take his place at the helm. John was now sitting next to his husband Will, who was seated in the navigation chair.
Hal stopped at the door before exiting the Bridge and looked over at the Astrogation Table. With a straight face, he directed his comments to the newlywed officers seated there, "Remember, gentlemen, you have duties to perform. There should be no kissing, holding hands or making gaga eyes at each other." Hal and Kyle left the Bridge to a chorus of laughter.
Kyle and Hal entered the Captain's ready room together. "There's water, fruit juice and soda in their usual locations in the back," Hal told his Chief Astrogator.
"Thank you, Sir. The tension involved in departing got me pretty thirsty," Kyle said as he poured himself a glass of water from a large cooler. "Would you like any?"
"Thank you, but I'm having me a delicious Dr Pepper." He took a can of soda out of the small refrigerator, opened it and took a long, satisfying sip. "Ahhh, there's a reason this stuff has been around forever."
Hal sat at his desk and Kyle sat in the chair to the right of the desk. From what he could see, not very much had changed in the ready room since Hal took over the captaincy. Kyle was certain that would change when Hal had the time to start making the room his own.
"A very nice job at the helm, Kyle. In fact, a great job overall."
"Thank you, Sir," Kyle responded, wishing Hal would get down to business.
"I look at this office the same way Dave did; informality works just fine within these four bulkheads. Anyway, letting Will do the navigation was a great touch."
"Will has mastered navigation in general; we're working on astrogation, but I will give him an assignment to carry out after we leave the solar system. That should fill any spare time he has over the day and a half or so."
"And I think you found a winner in Corey Adams. I can see him being a great asset to somebody's command in the not so distant future."
"He's been changing his life around completely. I can't wait to see what he does after he's admitted to the Academy. Anyway, I don't think you called me in here to heap a ton of praise on me. I have a feeling you have something to tell me."
"You're a good reader of people," Hal said. "Yes, I do have something on my mind." Kyle waited calmly for the Captain to go on. "Even though you did an outstanding job during the launch, and before it for that matter, I can't help but feel something was missing."
"Missing? I don't understand."
"It's something like this: you were calm, professional, you did your job exactly as any good officer would. But what I've so often seen from you is that you perform your job with an extra flair. You go about it like it's more than a job, it's something precious, something you totally love. Your style becomes contagious and you lift those around you up a notch. It's something that makes you such a fine officer and such a great leader."
"Why do I detect the word 'but' hidden in this talk somewhere?" Kyle asked. Kyle could tell that Hal had seen right through him, had seen his uneasiness and his worry. He didn't see how that could be so, since he had done his absolute best no matter what Hal may be thinking.
Hal decided it was time to get to the point. "But something seems to be bothering you."
"Nothing's bothering me," Kyle responded defensively.
"If you tell me what the problem is, we can work together to find a solution to it."
Kyle folded his arms and focused his gaze over Hal's right shoulder. "I said nothing is bothering me," he barked with the kind of sullen attitude only a pubescent child can muster. "Just leave me alone. I can solve it!"
A long silence followed Kyle's outburst. Kyle knew he had been out of line and waited for his commanding officer to rip him a new asshole. I've found a hell of a way to start a relationship with my new Captain, Kyle thought. As the silence continued, Kyle chewed himself out worse than Hal ever could.
Instead of giving his Chief Astrogator an ass chewing, however, Hal asked him a question, which he stated quietly but firmly. "You can solve what, Kyle?"
At first, Kyle wondered what Hal was asking him about, and then he realized what he had just said. Kyle was still worked up enough to bark out another loud "Nothing!" Instead, he took a deep breath to collect his thoughts, just as he had been learning from almost the day he entered the Academy Prep School.
Kyle realized it was time for him to be forthright with Hal. "First, I apologize for my outburst, Sir," he said with the kind of formality he knew was needed even behind closed doors.
"Apology accepted, Commander Robinson," Hal responded. "Now, let's stay calm, sit back and be honest."
"I have been a bit uptight, just like you noticed. I can't help but feel that I'm being spied on and judged."
"Well, you are being judged. When you're in a position of leadership, being judged comes with the job. But I take it this is beyond what is normal on the Bridge. Who is it that has penetrated your usually unshakeable aura of calm and confidence?"
"It's Will's dad."
"Robert? Admiral Crusoe? He's here to observe. He's supposed to be looking at you, making sure the new Astrogation table works properly..."
"I know, but it seems he's checking out Astrogation way more than any other department. It's not like there's a lot to learn, since mostly we're checking out the new equipment and I'm running Will through a lot of drill work."
"Kyle, it's not like you to let your imagination get the best of you. Robert is VERY interested in what you're doing and has stated as much. Remember, before his accident he was an Astrogator, so he's very interested in astrogation and navigation and has often said he doesn't know nearly as much as he would like to since he was in a coma for twelve years. Plus, I think he enjoys watching Will grow under your tutelage. So, yes, he is spending some extra time observing you, but not because he's been sent to spy on you. Why would he want to do that?"
"I dunno. Because my dad has enemies maybe?" Kyle knew he sounded totally lame, and he quickly changed tactics. "Sorry, that was a dumb thing to say. I don't know why I was thinking what I was thinking, except that I maybe just couldn't trust an adult riding on the ship."
"Dave and I are legally adults."
"Make that an adult who isn't in the Explorer Program. I thought I was over my weird thoughts after I talked about it with Danny." Kyle paused and then added, "I guess I need to give you my second apology, this time for being a total dork."
Hal nodded and grinned, "Apology accepted once again. And for the record, Robert IS in the Explorer Program. He will be heading up the Logistics Department and overseeing all the refits of the Explorer ships."
"How did you know I had something on my mind? I thought I was doing a good job."
"You were doing a good job, Kyle. But even on a normal day, you do a great job. That is the standard you have set for you and for your department. It's what I've come to expect—in fact it is what everyone, including you has come to expect. So, when you simply perform well, I'm not talking about an off-day, which everyone can have, I am talking about your overall performance over a few days."
"So, what do I do now?"
"I think you know the answer to that."
Kyle paused yet again. "I need to talk to Robert about my feelings concerning his hanging around all the time, tell him I know I was wrong and ask him what I can do to help him understand better what we do at the Astrogation table. I need to work with him and not against him, like I was doing."
"And your answer is exactly what I expected you to say. I suggest you take care of that business now."
Kyle rose from his chair and looked directly at the Captain of the Sooloo. "Thanks for being, well, so understanding. I deserved to get my ass chewed. I think the Sooloo has another great Captain."
"Thank you. I'll do my best to live up to your expectations."
As Kyle started out of the door, Hal stopped him. "There are reasons Devin French worships the deck you walk on, and your honesty and integrity are two of them. Now go take care of business."
Kyle decided that before he had his next difficult conversation, having a full stomach to work on would be a good idea. On his way to the officer's mess he came across Devin French, who was on the same mission. They walked the rest of the way to the mess together, chatting about Devin's impressions of the launch.
"You guys are pretty efficient," he observed as they entered the mess and took a table along the forward bulkhead. "You had all those observers in there, including me of course, you went about your business like it was a normal day in space. Even having Corey Adams give the launch order seemed normal."
They headed for the regular officers' mess and headed for the buffet since it would be quicker than eating in the senior officers' dining room or getting table service mess. The trade-off was that the better available choices were those on the menu rather than what is served on the buffet. That was more a matter of relativity than quality since Randy Jenkins worked hard to make sure everything served in the officers' mess, the crew mess, and the senior officers dining room, was high quality.
Randy noticed Kyle stepping up to the buffet and came out of the kitchen to greet his friend and Devin. "I see you're slumming it with the common officers this morning," Randy grinned.
"There is a lot going on and a casual breakfast is not an option this morning," Kyle noted.
"Well, the eggs are hot off the griddle, the bacon is crisp, the hash browns are my own special recipe, the juice is cold, and the coffee is hot. That is, if our guest observer drinks coffee. Our little boy senior officer hasn't picked up the caffeine habit yet," Randy explained to Devin.
"Coffee tastes gross," Kyle stuck out his tongue as he placed two fried eggs on his plate.
"You'll know he has grown up when you see him with a nice hot cup of java on his tray. You guys enjoy." As Kyle and Devin piled food on their trays, Randy headed back to the kitchen. Just before entering his domain, he turned, said, "Special treat for dinner tonight, so leave room," turned and entered the kitchen.
"Shimmy," Kyle chuckled knowingly.
"You mean I finally get to try it?" Devin asked.
"Try it and love it," Kyle nodded.
The hungry boys sat at a table along the forward bulkhead and dug into their breakfast. "What did you think of the new Astrogation table?" Kyle asked.
"It will take some getting used to, but I can see how it will make things quicker and more efficient. I'm interested to see what you and John Luke enter in when we do some FTL flying on the way back to Earth."
"So am I," Kyle admitted. Devin gave Kyle a questioning look. "Since this is a shakedown, I'm having John Luke, Will, Danny, you, along with me, enter a course into the table."
"Me?" Devin asked. "That wasn't on my schedule."
"Well, it is now. I'm surprised you didn't ask to create a course."
"I was under the impression I was just supposed to observe."
"On this ship you look at a schedule, an outline, or whatever, and then ask what you can add that goes beyond what is expected. That is especially true in my department."
"Another Kyleism for me to remember," Devin grinned.
Kyle shook off the compliment and said, "Pushing everybody, including yourself, is how you become one of the top ships in the fleet. Just remember that sometimes it can get you into a bit of lukewarm water."
"Lukewarm, not hot?"
"As long as you can justify what you did, the water won't get too uncomfortable." Kyle thought back to his dealings with the Rogue Star and how close he came to being boiled alive in hot water. But things did work out because he could justify every move he made.
As they finished breakfast, Kyle asked Devin what he had planned next.
"My schedule says I see how the navigation system works while we dodge the garbage of the asteroid belt," Devin replied.
"I want you to come with me first," Kyle said. "I have to make a major apology to a very senior officer, which means eating some crow. I'd like you to come along to give you a reminder of what hot water is like if you don't evaluate yourself and your actions."
"Sure, whatever you say." Devin ate his last bite of breakfast and set his fork down. "I can't help but think I can even learn a lot from your mistakes."
"What I had in mind is a lesson on not making those mistakes."
"I think that was what I meant," Devin grinned.
Kyle had hoped to run into Robert at breakfast, but that didn't happen. In order to find where Robert was assigned, Kyle and Devin went to Operations to find out where the Admiral was scheduled. Kyle's friend Steve wasn't at his desk, but Operations Chief Kash Rivers was sitting in his small office doing work on his computer.
"Welcome, Kyle," Kash said when Kyle and Devin stepped into his office. He looked at Devin, fighting to remember his name. "It's Devin, right?"
"That would be correct."
"Well then, welcome to you as well, Devin. Can I do anything for you two, or did Kyle come in to check on his buddy Steve, who had just left for breakfast, by the way?"
"I was wondering if you could give me the scheduled location for Admiral Crusoe," Kyle responded.
Kash typed a command on his computer, took a quick look at the screen, and said, "He is scheduled to be meeting with Commander Kanye in the Information Systems center."
Kyle thanked Kash, then he and Devin dashed to Information Systems. There he came across Brad and Robert inspecting data on a large monitor. "Greetings my good friend," Brad grinned when he saw Kyle enter the computer room. "And greetings to his good friend, Devin. To what do I owe the honor of this visit?"
"I was looking for Admiral Crusoe," Kyle replied.
"And you appeared to have found him," Robert replied.
Brad pointed to the monitor and addressed Robert. "As Kyle already knows, there's been some great changes in the astrogation software. A lot of the course changes and such that had to be entered manually are now tracked by the astrogation computer which automatically makes flawless changes.
"And course data which, as we know, could be manipulated or wiped out from an outside entity is now permanently safe, which I know just makes Kyle happy beyond imagining."
"What you know, my good friend Bradley, is that I trust computer software about as far as I trust your used transport sales talk," Kyle grinned. "My department and I will still be putting everything in writing in the astrogation logbooks. I am sure that holds for the Endurance as well."
"Absolutely," Devin agreed. "And in duplicate."
"Now that we have agreed that the new software in Brad's hardware needs careful monitoring, what can I do for you, Commander Robinson?" Robert asked.
"I'd like to speak with you in private, at your convenience, Sir," Kyle told him.
Robert looked at Brad. "We are scheduled to break for lunch in ten minutes. Any problem with me going now, Brad?"
Brad shook his head. "I think we've done all we can do for now. We have another session scheduled for tomorrow to look at some of the engineering updates."
"Where shall we meet, Kyle?" Robert asked. Kyle noted the change from Commander Robinson to Kyle and relaxed a tad.
"My little teeny-weeny office won't hold three, so how about the meeting room off the officers' lounge?"
"Devin will be joining us."
"Very well. Lead the way."
The meeting room was not in use when the three officers entered the lounge, and they quickly closed the door and took possession.
"Admiral Crusoe," Kyle began but was stopped by Robert holding up his right hand.
"Let's keep things informal," Robert said. "I got formal in front of Brad because it's easier to step down the formality than it is to step it up." Kyle nodded that he understood. "Now, what is it that is bothering you?"
"I would like to apologize to you, Sir." Robert elected to ignore the sir since something was obviously bothering the boy and that would have to be the focus. He waited for Kyle to go on. Kyle swore that his difficult conversations of the day were as much a waiting game as a conversation. "I was not as much of a help to you as I could have been."
"I thought you were a great help. You gave concise answers to all of my questions. And what you have done for Will is simply amazing."
"I should have done more. I should have stepped up and offered information when you were observing me at work. But, well, you see, I thought you were hanging around me to evaluate me and write a report on me for the senior officers who don't like the explorer program much. In other words, I didn't trust you."
Kyle expected Robert to lecture him on trust or some related subject. Instead he smiled and said, "What I think you're saying is, you were upset because an adult had invaded your space on the Bridge, and you needed an excuse to not like him."
"Yeah, something like that."
"How old are you Kyle?" Robert knew the answer to the question, but he wanted to hear it from Kyle.
"I'm just twelve."
"That's your first mistake. You're not just twelve. You are an amazing twelve. You are one of the very few senior officers in the Explorer fleet under the age of thirteen, and the only Chief Astrogator."
Devin, who had been following this with interest, nodded approval of Robert's praise. Kyle is not only the only Chief Astrogator under thirteen, he is best Chief Astrogator, period, he thought. No argument.
"Kyle, I was twelve in what sometimes feels like a previous lifetime. I know I resented adults sneaking into my space telling me what to do. But I also learned that just about every one of them had legitimate business when dealing with me. The way I see it with you, not only was your space invaded by a strange adult, it was a space that you had enjoyed command and control of, answering only to your Captain and First Officer. Maybe I'm the one who should be apologizing."
"Why? Everybody told me why you were hanging around me."
"That's right, my young friend. Everybody told you except for me. I simply assumed you knew so the question and answer sessions were okay with you."
"But they were okay."
"But, my hanging around you more than any officer made you feel nervous and was not okay." Kyle nodded. "And for not making my motives clear, I apologize."
"Apology accepted, Sir."
"Robert," Kyle grinned. Robert placed his hand on Kyle's shoulder. "I do have a feeling you have more you can teach me, especially the questions that have come up in my mind after my session with Brad."
"Then maybe we should meet at the Astrogation table," Kyle suggested.
"After I have lunch," Robert chuckled. He got up to leave the room and then stopped. "Thanks again for what you're doing for Will. I'm not sure what he thought about being fifteen and under the command of a twelve-year-old, but kids being kids it may have been on his mind. All I can say is, he thinks you're 'really awesome'." Before Kyle could say anything, Robert was gone.
"I don't know what all that was about," Devin said, "but I thought you did pretty good. I mean he is an admiral and all."
"I think having a father who is an admiral helped some, but I still got out of sorts until it was kind of shown to me that I was the one at fault in how he made me feel."
"Maybe that was shown to you, but somehow you got Mr. Admiral admitting he wasn't perfect either."
Kyle smiled at Devin. "Admitting you are wrong makes for a good leader. I've been taught that from leadership class on up."
"I don't know what the fuck I learned in leadership class. I do know I learned a lot more from you. And the big thing I learned is to admit when I'm wrong."
"And the thing I've learned from you is how someone who really wants to can turn his life around. And Corey Adams is on the same track as you."
"Yep, thanks to Kyle Robinson."
"No offense, Devin, but we're both pretty damned good astrogators and officers, and the one who got you there was you and not me. I think the two of us are equals."
"Except you can calculate the shit out of me. But, hey, let's not let a few misplaced decimal points come between friends."
Kyle and Devin stood face-to-face, with Kyle having to look up at the older boy to make eye contact. "Let's just say I love you as much as I can love a friend and leave it at that."
Devin stunned Kyle by giving him a quick peck on his lips. He turned and left the room, leaving Kyle rubbing his lips and grinning ear-to-ear.
Dave and Hal finished their watch on the Bridge at 0800 but retired to Hal's Ready Room to take care of other ship's business before returning to their quarters. When they did arrive in their quarters around 0915, they found their son, Lars, sitting on a couch in front of the large 'window' allowing him to see the stars as they passed by.
After greeting their son, Dave asked, "Where is your brother?"
"Him and Drake are in his bedroom," Lars replied with a smirk and a wink.
Dave glanced over at his husband who followed him to the boy's room where he knocked.
Almost immediately, they heard "Come in."
Entering, they found the two boys sitting on a couch watching a vid. Both were fully clothed. Hal looked at the screen and found that they were watching an old 20th century movie starring a young boy android. The movie was called A.I. - Artificial Intelligence.
Both Dave and Hal were surprised that the boys weren't otherwise engaged.
Moments later, Oliver looked over and said, "Gee Dad, life is more than naughty stuff!"
"What a fun day this has been," Kash exclaimed as he took off his boots. "How was your day?"
Jay looked at his dad and smiled, "Jason took me on a tour of the ship. We went to the school room, even though we couldn't get inside, then the children's lounge and played some games."
"So, I take it that you're happy to be aboard," Kash smiled.
"I am happy to be here with you, and Jason is an added bonus. I know he's my cousin, second cousin, I believe, but I really like him more."
"Since you aren't blood related, I have no problem with that, and neither do his parents."
"That's good to know." Jay sat for a few minutes, "Dad, Jason said that we start classes tomorrow, but we only have tomorrow and the next day of this cruise, so will we go to classes for two days and not have classes again until we launch again?"
"Well, tomorrow is basically an introduction day. You, Oliver and Drake will need to be tested to see where you place, plus I understand we have a second teacher aboard who still needs to be introduced to all of you boys. Heck, I've yet to meet him, myself. Then when we return to Earth, they have two classrooms at the Academy available to continue your classes until we launch."
"I'm glad you were assigned to the Sooloo. I believe I am going to like it here."
Brad's grumbling stomach told him that lunch had to be close and he should check the time again. He looked at the bottom of his computer screen and saw that five minutes had passed since the last time he had checked and sure enough, he could now leave his office for lunch. He logged off and left his small office and Information Systems center and headed for Operations to meet up with Steve and Shasho, knowing his son might be visiting his best friend Akage and not available to join them for lunch.
When he entered the Operations center and saw Shasho and Steve huddled at Shasho's computer, which was situated behind Steve's desk. They were engaged in a lively discussion over something on the computer screen.
Shasho pointed to the monitor and said, "Opsola Unka, you know you have this happening in the wrong order. It isn't going to work that way. It has to be done THIS way, or everybody will get confused."
"I hate so say it, but you're the one who's confused, Son. The way I set it up is the most efficient way for crewmembers to get this task done."
"No, you've got it all backwards."
Since Steve and Shasho were totally engrossed in their discussion and had their backs to him, Brad was able to quietly sneak behind them and peek at what they were arguing about.
"Let's switch back over to my screen," Steve insisted. Brad could tell they had their two computers operating in tandem through their connections to the mainframe. Shasho changed windows and brought up what Steve had produced. Brad quickly scanned what Steve had written.
"Look at what I have there, Shasho. If it isn't done this way, the users will run into a dead end and not be able to finish it."
"I know that will happen if they do it your way instead of my way. Look at it again."
Brad watched the screen switch back and read what Shasho had laid out. His brain quickly compared the two programs which caused him to burst out laughing.
Startled, Steve and Shasho yelped and turned to see who it was, almost banging their heads together as they did so. "Opsola Brad! What are you doing here?" Shasho asked.
"It's time for lunch and we agreed to meet for lunch today," Brad replied between chuckles.
"Well, that didn't stop you from scaring the shit out of us," Steve said. "And what's so funny?"
"You two are hilarious. You're a true comedy act."
"Opsola, this is very serious. This will help Space Fleet get information from the crew," Shasho stated seriously. "And Opsola Unka Steve has it in the wrong order and it will not work."
Steve shook his head and said, "Our son is the one who is confused."
"Like I said, a first-class comedy act." He laughed again when he saw Steve and Shasho glaring at him. "How about you two bringing your screens up side-by-side." Shasho did so. "Now read Shasho's fifth line and then Steve's back-to-back."
Shasho did so. After reading Shasho's and then his, Steve read them the other way. "Well, fuck me silly," he mumbled.
"What is it?" Shasho was used to Steve's frequent use of expletives and tended to ignore them.
"Don't you see it Shasho? If you do, you'll understand what I think is so funny," Brad patiently explained to his son.
Shasho looked back-and-forth between the separate screens again and then let out a long sigh. "Oh," he finally uttered. "What I said and what Opsola Unka Steve said is the same thing, only, what we did was…"
"…what we did was use different wording," Steve grinned.
"And Opsola Brad thinks this is funny?"
"He not only thinks it's funny, it IS funny. We wasted a ton of time arguing about nothing."
Shasho considered the entire affair and then grinned. "Yes, it is humorous. And this is all making me hungry. I think that is called a hint."
"And a very big hint," Brad responded. "Let's go eat."
"Noah, can you 'mind the store,' so to speak?" Steve asked.
"But I just came to take Noah to lunch," Sukotto almost whined as he entered the almost crowded Operations' Office.
Jinzo and Corey almost filled the office to capacity, "I can take this time to show Corey what we do in Operations," Jinzo suggested.
Steve nodded, "That will work, thank you, Jinzo."
With Shasho in the middle, the Boyer/Kanye family walked happily to lunch.
As they headed to the Officers' Mess, Noah looked at Sukotto, "Any special reason you wanted to take me to lunch? Not that I mind, I am just curious."
"Today IS your birthday," Sukotto reminded him.
"Yes, but we celebrated it with the massive birthday party in December, then we celebrated it with my family and almost got you in trouble..."
"I did get in trouble. Opsola punished me," Sukotto joked.
"Yeah... um, no," Noah sniggered, "a hug isn't punishment."
"If it were, I'd want to get in trouble all the time," Sukotto chuckled.
"Hey guys," Randy greeted Noah and Sukotto.
Sukotto responded, "I hear you're making your lasagna."
"That is correct," Randy replied, "we'll start serving it at 1700."
Randy left them and walked to the middle of the Officers' Mess, "Everyone, if I can have your attention." He waited a few minutes before continuing, "Today is Crewman Noah Marquis' birthday. Though he isn't an officer, he IS here with Ensign Sukotto Trevor. I know he was included in the party in December, so we aren't having a cake for his birthday, but yet we are having a cake. Ben Maxey created a cake to celebrate our Shakedown Cruise, and since it IS Noah's birthday…"
Ben brought out the cake he created.
"Did you know about this?" Noah felt embarrassed.
Sukotto smiled, "Randy asked me to get you and bring you here. Steve and Jinzo were in on it."
"So… when Steve asked me to 'mind the store,' as he put it…"
Sukotto chuckled, "That was just a ruse. I was waiting outside for him to say it."
Rear Admiral Robert Crusoe was taking a few minutes to gather his thoughts before heading to Engineering so he and Connor Marlin-Douglass could go over the engines. Though nothing was done to improve what the Darastixians had already done, Robert wanted to be sure nothing was done to undo what was done. He was duly impressed with the entire staff in Information Systems, but Brad and his assistant-chief, Lieutenant Roger Duncan seemed to have the pulse of the others working in that department and ran a very efficient operation in Robert's mind. He was hoping to get the same results in Engineering.
He was just about to head out when his comms alerted him to an incoming video call from Earth. He entered the command to open the communication and saw his friend, Bill Mirah smiling at him.
"So, how is the first day progressing on the first shakedown cruise, ROC?" R.O.C. were Robert Orlando Crusoe's initials and many of his crewmates in the past used the moniker ROC to refer to him.
"I will tell you, Bill. I've been on many a starship in my career, but these boys have things under better control, and running more smoothly, than I have ever seen. Each and every one of them goes above and beyond. Other than a minor mis-understanding between myself and one of the officers... one that has been worked out amicably, things are going famously. If all of the shakedown cruises are this smooth... on one of the future ones, I may ask for permission to bring my younger son along."
"Well, I wouldn't have an issue with that... provided your wife agrees. I will tell you right upfront, that she will not be allowed. It's a stretch for the boys to have an adult on the ship, but a female, especially a mother? That would be going too far."
Robert laughed but agreed. "I totally understand. If you will excuse me, Bill, I need to head out or I will be late to my next meeting. As you may know, on this ship 9-minutes early is the equivalent of one-minute late."
The two laughed again and Robert terminated the call. He left his quarters with a smile on his face.
At exactly 1550, ROC, or Robert Crusoe, entered Main Engineering. He was immediately greeted by Connor Marlin-Douglass, Chief Engineer. "Good Afternoon, Admiral."
"Good Afternoon to you as well, Commander. But now that the official 'greetings' are behind us, please call me Robert, or ROC, and if I may, I'll call you Connor."
"That's fine. Please let me introduce you to my Assistant-Chief, Lt. Tom Kohl, my son, Ensign Juro Marlin-Douglass, and Tom's son, Ensign Tomo Kohl."
"Juro and Tomo, you are two of the Draconian adoptees, am I correct?"
"It's nice to meet you, Admiral. But we prefer Darastixian. Both terms are correct, but we're more used to the name of our people in our own language." Juro replied, hoping he hadn't spoken out-of-turn.
"That's fine, Juro," Robert acknowledged, "before you worry too much, you were perfectly justified in correcting me. You did it respectfully. I am impressed. Now, who's going to show me what's what here in Engineering?"
After a brief look and nod between Connor and Tom, Connor replied, "Well, ROC, if you have no objections, we're going to have Tomo and Juro show you around Engineering first, then you, Tom and I will sit down and go over anything you wish to address."
"That works fine for me. Juro, Tomo, I'm all yours."
Over the next thirty minutes, Juro and Tomo showed ROC around Engineering. He was impressed, not only with the knowledge of the two, but their ability to clarify items that ROC hadn't previously been aware of. When he was brought to Connor and Tom, he turned to the pair and said, "Thank you both for a very well-done tour of your facilities. Tomo, am I correct that you were primarily responsible for Ensign Jinzo Kohl's creation?"
"I may have led the team, Sir. But it was a team effort by all of us students." Tomo replied respectfully.
"Of course, but a team is only as good as its leader. At some point I would like to sit down with your team to meet Jinzo and discuss his creation. An android of his caliber may be of use on other ships and I would like to learn from you."
Tomo, unused to praise of that magnitude, blushed before saying quietly, "Thank you, Sir. I'd like that. I can even give you a copy of his schematics."
"Tomo also built a submersible that we have down in the Shuttle Bay," Tom added.
Robert proclaimed, "I am doubly impressed."
Tomo and Juro left the conference room and over the next hour, ROC and the Engineering leadership went over his findings.
The Kohl family were sitting at two tables, Tom and Randy at one with Tomo and Jinzo at the other. A few minutes later, Aiden, Connor and Juro joined them. Juro looked at Jinzo, "So, how did your day go with Corey Adams?"
"I think he resented me showing him around until he realized how big the Sooloo is," Jinzo replied. "As we walked, we talked, and he seemed curious to get to know me."
"How so?" Tomo questioned.
"He asked me my favorite thing to do aboard ship, he wanted to know if I had a favorite color, he asked if I was anatomically correct…"
"WHAT!?!?" Tomo yelled.
"Relax, Tomo," Tom suggested. "I am sure he's just a curious twelve-year-old boy."
Tomo protested, "But he is twelve and Jinzo appears to be ten. What about the two-year rule?"
"They would be within the parameters, and besides, Jinzo didn't say that they did anything."
Juro asked, "So, what did you tell him?"
Jinzo got a big grin on his face, "I told him yes, and my opsola gave me a 21cm (8.27") flaccid member. You should have seen his face."
Tomo laughed, "More like 13cm. (5.12")"
"He'll never know that," Jinzo assured.
Juro looked disappointed, "But you lied."
"Opsola Tomo programmed me to allow harmless fibs if done in fun or teasing," Jinzo justified. "I could never lie to get out of trouble or if it causes harm to another."
"I'm not happy with you lying at all," Juro argued, "I was raised that lying for any reason is wrong."
"I am sorry, Opsola Juro, I will never lie again."
"How do I know you aren't lying now? That's one of the reasons lying for any reason is wrong. You lost a bit of my trust."
"I don't know what to say," Jinzo looked depressed.
Juro sighed, "Perhaps I am being too harsh. I know you didn't think anything was wrong with exaggerating your size, and boys do it all the time. I do trust you, but I don't like lying. Still, I guess if it's just joking, there is no harm in it."
"I love you, Opsola Juro, and I'm not teasing."
"I know you do, and I love you, Deevdru ("Deevdru: The Draconian word for son. ")."
"Did you program him with feelings?" Connor inquired.
Tomo explained, "He is able to emulate feelings if he feels they are warranted."
Corey lay next to Kyle on Kyle's bed. The two boys were naked, more for comfort than for sexual reasons. The fact that each boy thought the other boy was hot may have also been a contributing factor.
"How come you and Danny don't serve the same watch together?" Corey asked Kyle.
Kyle, turning his head, looked directly at Corey. "We do have the same watch a lot of times, but Bridge watches don't rotate that smoothly. There is a lot of math involved in creating the watch matrix. For example, one time we never share the same watch, except in extenuating circumstances, is when I have the Conn. Everybody knows Danny and I have the integrity to do everything the right way, but regulations stipulate we follow that policy."
"I seem to have a lot to learn," Corey moaned. "How am I going to write my reports if I don't know anything. This guy does that, and the assistant to the Assistant Chief Engineer is responsible for this, and Information Systems is about the computer system… unless it's being used to boil water in the kitchen, it's really complicated."
Kyle rolled onto his right side and draped his left arm across Corey's chest. The twelve-year-old cadet let out a long, satisfied sigh. "I recorded my thoughts, and I wrote notes, but it's still complicated. So many guys have more than one job, like Danny. He's the head fighter pilot, a shuttle pilot, he serves Bridge watch as a navigator, or mans the helm—how does anyone keep track."
"I see you still have your sense of humor. Your problem is, you're getting lost in the details," Kyle told him.
"Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?"
"Try looking at the big picture. Think about how all the departments fit together instead of how every little job works. That's what makes the ship fly efficiently."
"But I need to know this stuff."
Kyle moved his hand lightly along Corey's bare chest. "You have a nice, solid body," he whispered.
"What does that have to do with my figuring stuff out?"
"Not much, except that when somebody pets me like I'm petting you it calms me down and I can think better."
"Or it makes you mega-horny," Corey chuckled.
"Well, there is that too," Kyle smirked. He stopped stroking Corey's hard, smooth chest and gazed directly into Corey's eyes. "Corey, you're going to learn all of those details at the Academy. It's why you are going there, to learn the details. The whole reason I wanted you to come on the shakedown is for you to get a feel for what lies ahead of you after the academy. It's to help you set some goals, in other words."
"So, all I have to do then is write about the big picture? And then tell what I think of it? I don't need to report on what the level seven computer tech does on the second and fourth Tuesday of every even month?"
"Nope, you just have to tell what an awesome job the helm did when the Sooloo left the space dock on its shakedown cruise."
"I can do that. And I can even tell how that helmsman moved my cock from soft to hard," Corey grinned. "Thanks, Kyle. I feel way better now. You are really awesome. And I want to thank you again for the thousandth time for letting me do this. It's been way more than I expected. Oh, and I am sorry for whining a lot."
"No problem, Corey. Whining seems to be a big part of a cadet's existence, so call that a learning experience. But, learning how to deal with the whining is the big part of the learning experience. Believe me, I know this from experience. It's coming from Kyle Robinson, who would have been Cadet Whiner of the Year not that long ago."
"They really have an award called that?"
"No, but if they did, I would have been the winner when I started at the Prep School and the Academy."
"I think I'm good now except, well, you did get something started down there." Corey pointed to his excited crotch. "Is a senior officer allowed to solve that kind of a problem for a cadet?"
"Normally, no, but in this case, the answer is yes," Kyle responded as he resumed his stroking, only this time a bit lower on Corey's body.
The majority of the senior staff of the Sooloo were warm in their beds, thankful for the 'downtime' after the excitement of the launch of the Sooloo on her shakedown. The excitement of the day had finally abated enough so that Corey Adams finally drifted off to sleep.
Mere minutes later, a klaxon that none of the crew had ever heard pierced the typical quiet of the ship at that hour of the day. In every stateroom, officers were being roused from their beds. Hal immediately got on his comms to the Bridge. "Jordan, report!"
Jordan seemed flustered, "I don't know, Sir. All of our boards show green. It could be some sort of a computer malfunction but IS reports no problems."