Voyagers Book II

Chapter Twenty-One: The Press Conference

Part One

A Collaboration of TrueFan, Zarek Dragon and Douglas DD

The Sooloo left Darastix and received a distress call. The SS Darastix and the Sooloo headed for the origin. Drake gave Lakinae and Marasu a tour ending in their quarters, then talked with them about 'nekkid' swimming.

On the Bridge, Kyle was having difficulty scanning for the location for navigation. Megrez suggested using infrared scans. There is a rogue planet (a planet without a star) in the location. Several different ships are in orbit around the planet, one being an Explorer Class and the origin of the distress call.

Hal called Tommy and Danny to his Ready Room. Tommy worried that he had done something wrong, but Hal informed him that for him to continue his studies and going into different departments, he needed to be an Acting Ensign.

John Luke had his birthday, and Drake asked Oliver to do what they had originally planned for Drake's birthday.

Kash talked with Steve about crew evaluations. Though Steve wasn't up for an evaluation, he asked Kash to give him an unofficial one. He just wanted Kash's honest opinion about him. Kash gave a slightly brutal, but respectful one. It wasn't a bad one, but Kash did let Steve know where he stood.

The boys didn't get their 'nekkid' swimming, but it had been discussed. Kyle decided he should do a press conference and started working his way through the chain of command. 

Sunday, 5 April 2122

Bridge ~ 0927

Kyle was on watch and was the Duty Astrogator with Jordan at the Conn. Kyle was filling his time working to solve a round of "Stump the Astrogator" that John Luke had left for him. The problem-solving game was an exercise Kyle had concocted to keep his Astrogators on their toes. John Luke and Will thought it was only fair that Kyle solve astrogation problems as well and were soon creating their own versions of the game for Kyle and for each other. Danny and other officers who often stood on watch at the astrogation table but weren't fully trained Astrogators were soon receiving less-complex versions of the exercise for them to work through during their watches.

So far, John Luke and Will had failed to stump Kyle. But the exercise he had received when he relieved Will was a doozie. Will warned him that he and John Luke had collaborated on the exercise and thought it would keep him busy.

Kyle was having problems concentrating on his task because he was impatiently waiting for Admiral Mirah to contact him. He was tired of not knowing whether he could have his news conference. Even a negative answer would be better than not knowing.

As he began making sense of what John Luke and Will had concocted, he decided to program a star configuration into the astrogation table. Just as he thought he could see the solution, the bridge communicator signaled a call. His ears perked up when Jordan answered saying, "Rivers here; what can I do for you, Captain?"

"Commander Robinson has a call from Admiral Mirah. Please have him report to my Ready Room immediately."

"Aye, aye, Sir." Jordan looked at Kyle, "You're excused to the Ready Room."

Kyle left immediately, feeling like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He felt certain that Mirah was ready to give him his decision.

"Should I call in somebody to man the helm?" Jordan asked Hal.

"This shouldn't take long. Just make sure nobody steals the table and gets us lost," Hal joked.

"But what if…"

"Relax, Jordan. The other Commander Robinson should be entering the Bridge any second. Captain out."

Jordan wondered whether having a captain with a twisted sense of humor was a good thing when Danny entered the Bridge. "Commander Robinson reporting as ordered."

"Take the helm, Danny, and make sure we haven't drifted more than ten light years off course."


"Sorry. I was doing my Captain Hal impersonation. Just take the helm and don't mess up whatever star cluster your husband entered into the table."

When Kyle entered the Ready Room, Hal was standing next to his desk. "Use my desk communicator," Hal told him. "I'll leave you alone to talk to the Admiral. Good luck, Kyle. I hope this works out for you."

"Thank you, Sir. I'll let you know when I'm finished." Kyle opened the communicator. "This is Commander Robinson, Admiral." Even though this was a video communication, Kyle felt obligated to go through the proper formalities.

There was a slight pause as Mirah set aside the report he had been reading as he waited for Kyle. "Hello, Kyle. Good to hear your voice. I'm sure you've been eagerly awaiting my call."

"Yes Sir, I have, but I know you're pretty busy, too."

"I'm never too busy for someone who needs an important decision made as soon as possible. I knew what my decision would be; Commander Howard and I were double checking the regulations as well as the rulings by Space Fleet Command through the years on the topic of news conferences." Commander Lyndon Howard was a member of Admiral Mirah's staff. "I believe my decision is on solid ground. And Kyle, no matter how you look at your issue, it is personal as well as official. That said, let's drop the formalities and talk like two officers who have complete respect for each other."

"Yes Sir," Kyle replied out of habit.

"First, I want to commend you for taking your issue through the proper chain of command. You made my job easier, and though it might not seem like it to you, you made your job easier. You showed your maturity as an officer and as a person."

"Thank you, it was what I was trained to do."

"A lot of people get trained on how to do things right, but that doesn't mean everyone complies. Regardless, you're probably squirming in Hal's chair waiting for a decision.

"Please hold any questions or comments until I have finished. I have decided to allow you to hold a news conference with a few caveats." Bill grinned internally when he saw Kyle's face light up. "You must follow the Space Fleet rules on news conference participation religiously. That means not mentioning either Senate candidate by name, even though you can indicate what office they are running for."

Kyle nodded; he had scanned the regulations before he'd taken his request to Hal.

"While this is not in the regulations, I want you to avoid listing your credentials as an officer in the Explorer Program. That doesn't mean your credentials can't be listed, it means that you can't list them." Mirah could see Kyle chomping at the bit to interrupt and knew it was time to pause for questions. "Questions?"

"How am I supposed to talk about what I do on the Sooloo and my accomplishments if I am not allowed to talk about them?" Kyle asked with a hint of frustration.

"Well, son, you let somebody else talk about them."

"Who? Hal? Dave? You? MY DAD?? Who? I mean you're all people I report to."

"The person speaking for you is somebody you know well and who knows you well. That would be Commander Hanson."

"Really? My teacher and mentor? Wow, that would be awesome. Why didn't I think of that? Will he do it and when can I talk to him?"

"I know you need to return to your watch, but when you've finished, Commander Hanson will be waiting to hear from you. He and I have had a long discussion about your dilemma, and he is more than eager to help his star student. Also, I know your father has stated his willingness to help you. He has some good ideas, so don't be afraid to talk to him. Remember, you're not alone in this, Kyle. We are all upset about what has been said about you and we would love for everyone to see you for the officer and gentleman you really are."

"When would I be able to schedule the news conference?"

"I'd like it to happen as soon as possible. Contact me at this time in three days. If you put your heart into this like I know you will, we should be ready to go within five days."

"Thank you, Admiral Mirah, I mean, Bill. I'm starting to feel confident about this."

"As well you should. It will take a team effort to make this work, and I think we're well on the way to seeing it bear fruit. Now, get back to your post. Commander Hanson will fill me in on how your talk went, but feel free to text me anything you feel I should know. Mirah, out."

The admiral's visage went dark. Kyle rose from Hal's desk and headed back to the Bridge feeling an extra skip in his step.

Classroom ~ 1500

Ali was disappointed in himself that he hadn't spoken with Lakinae about the skinny dipping. He was sitting in the classroom, going over the schedule for the following week when he saw his note about wanting to do so.

Getting up, Ali asked the computer to locate Lakinae. "Lakinae is currently in Holodeck Two, Section B"

Ali made his way to the Holodeck and, using his authorization codes, walked in. The first thing he saw was an acting ensign uniform hanging from a tree. He proceeded with caution.

Coming to a pond, it was obvious that neither Tommy nor Lakinae had seen him. He was about to make himself known when he overheard Lakinae, "I was kind of disappointed when we didn't go nekkid swimming Friday. Do you think Ali will let us this coming Friday?"

"I think that depends on whether he gets a chance to ask you about it," Tommy replied.

"If he doesn't ask me by Wednesday," Lakinae began, "then I will go see him. I'm enjoying this, especially with you. Having the others with us wouldn't make a difference."

Ali heard more than enough and knew the answer to his question. He made a note to inform the class that "nekkid" swimming could start again that Friday. He left without Lakinae or Tommy knowing he had been there.

Monday, 6 April 2122

Note to Readers: This scene was the last scene of Chapter Nineteen. This chapter starts with the last scene of Chapter Twenty and is added here for continuity's sake.

Hal's Ready Room ~ 0550

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Bridge ~ 1530

Kyle was the Astrogator on watch when Hal told him he had a communication from Admiral Mirah. "He said it will be short, so I'll take the table," Hal said.

Kyle gave him a look that said, what do you know about taking the helm, Captain? since taking the helm was essentially what the Astrogator did when the ship was moving along at FTL speeds. Hal read the look and chuckled. "Me being at the helm will give you and the Admiral a lot of incentive to keep your chat short. Take the communication in my Ready Room and then hustle your buns back."

The communication took less than two minutes. The purpose was to set up a time for Kyle to meet with Commander Hanson to discuss the planning of the news conference. Mirah had Hanson's schedule and Kyle had his own schedule, of course. They quickly found a time both Kyle and his mentor were free.

"Commander Hanson will send a text confirming the time," Mirah told Kyle. "You may return to duty."

Hal had moved from the con and stood behind the Astrogator's seat. When he heard the entry door to the bridge open, he assumed it was Kyle returning from his communication. He was correct in his assumption and mimed holding tight the handles to a large wooden ship's wheel as Kyle entered bridge. The entire watch was quiet, waiting to see how Kyle would react. When Kyle saw what Hal was doing, he broke out into loud laughter and the entire watch joined him.

"Good job, Mr. Tietokone," Kyle said when he caught his breath. "You kept us off the rocks."

"Thank you, Mr. Helmsman, I did my best, but I am relieved to have you back," Hal grinned.

Kyle sat at the helm and pretended to me checking that all the setting were correct. The starship did not use a big wooden wheel, of course; the ship was controlled on a touch screen and with a joystick. All on watch appreciated how Hal every now and then found a way of preventing a routine watch from becoming drudgery.

Kyle's watch was scheduled to conclude at 1600 and the conference with Commander Hanson was scheduled for 1630. Kyle knew that he would probably be thinking of food that close to dinner and didn't want thought of food to affect his concentration. He had a solution to the problem, however. He contacted Randy Jenkins about having a small snack plate delivered to his quarters at 1615 so he wouldn't be interrupted by his rumbling stomach during a communication with Commander Hanson at the Academy.

Robinson Quarters ~ 1615

Randy was more than happy to accommodate Kyle. He put together a vegetable plate with crackers and a garlic butter dip that he knew Kyle loved and delivered it himself.

"Kids," he said when Kyle let him into his quarters. "You're always worried about your stomachs and getting enough food, especially when dinner is sneaking up on you. But, kid of not, I happen to like you so this should help you with your chat with your teacher."

"Hey, you're fourteen, and I happen to know teenagers get hungry, too—even more than twelve-year-olds," Kyle said.

"Guilty as charged. But I run the kitchen, so not having food is never an issue with me. And everybody else needing food keeps me employed."

"Well, thanks for bringing it, Randy. I didn't except the head chef to make the delivery."

"Only the best for the best," Randy grinned. "Enjoy." Randy left as Kyle picked up a carrot, rolled it in the dip, and enjoyed the delicious flavors.

Kyle's comm buzzed at precisely 1630. He picked up his communicator and saw that Commander Hanson had already been patched to it. "Good day, Commander Hanson," Kyle said.

"And a good afternoon to you, Commander Robinson," the teacher said. "And how is life among the stars?" Kyle credited Hanson, his former Astrogation instructor (among other classes), as well as mentor and advisor, for sticking with the wild boy he had been and guiding him to becoming who he is now, a senior officer on a starship.

"Life is good, sir."

"Let's skip the sirs. We're both of equal rank, of nothing else."

"Yes, sir. I mean, okay." As with his father, Kyle often had a difficult time thinking of Commander Hanson as anything but "sir."

"Admiral Mirah told me what you wanted talk about. I am more than willing to do so. I have some thoughts on the subject, but I want to find out what you would like to know, first."

"I would like to know about everything you can think of. The Admiral said that at my news conference I shouldn't be listing all the good things I am doing so I don't sound like a cocky kid. He thought having you and maybe Hal or Dave speak for me. What do you think?"

"I think he is correct."

Kyle and his teacher then spent time talking about what Kyle wanted the media to learn about him to show that he was more than a little boy who did the stupid jobs the older boys wanted him to do as well as to tell them he joined the Explorer Program because he wanted to, not because somebody made him do it.

"You should tell how you earned your position and what your responsibilities are. Remember you want to keep this short and to the point. I will be the one to mention your accomplishments as an Astrogator and an officer."

"But how do you get introduced? Do you want me to say something, here is Commander Hanson to tell you how wonderful I am?" Kyle asked.

"Nope. After you tell your audience what you are and what you do, you introduce me as one of your teachers who will explain the kind of education that is needed just to be considered for a berth on an Explorer ship and what an Astrogator needs to know in order to succeed, or words to that effect."

"Okay, if you and Admiral Mirah think that will work, I'll go with it."

"More than Admiral Mirah are involved with this. One Admiral named Robinson has put in his two cents worth as well. Somehow he has a pretty good feel for who you are and what you do."

"But if you tell them that my dad thinks all this good stuff about me, those reporters will eat me alive, right?"

"Who said I was going to mention him? I'll give Admiral Mirah the Admiralty credit," Hanson assured Kyle.

"You know, you can be pretty devious at times."

"And, as you know, I'm proud of it," Hanson grinned.

The Commander logged off and Kyle sat back in his overstuffed chair thinking about his next chat, which would be with his Grandma Miranda. Then it would be time to call the news conference. Everybody involved in the media project knew that the faster the conference happened, the better, especially since Cooper seemed to be picking up some momentum in the election race.

Kyle rose from the chair and headed for dinner, where he would meet Danny, Koji and Duskin. As he whisked down the corridor, he wished his life could go back to being simple: Astrogator, husband, 'uncle' and father. He was realizing more and more that was the cycle that made him happiest.

Tuesday, 7 April 2122

Robinson Quarters ~ 0900

Kyle grinned when the image of his Grandmother Miranda appeared on the screen of his computer sitting on the desk in his office. "Hi, Grandma, thanks for calling me," Kyle said.

"My grandson, organized officer that he is, gave me the time to call and the subject of the call. What else is an old lady to do?" Miranda responded with a serious look on her face.

"Well, she could say hello to her great-grandsons who are waiting eagerly to give you a wave." Kyle signaled to Koji and Duskin to stand in front of the computer where the camera could pick them up.

Koji grinned and waved to his great-grandmother, "I love you Jennu Nafldask Miranda."

"And I love you, Koji my sweet great-grandson," Miranda responded. "And I love you just as much, Duskin." While Koji and Miranda had met in person, Miranda had seen Duskin only once, and that was via video hookup the day after his adoption.

Duskin looked at the screen and then held his right hand up, giving his grandmother a shy wave. "Duskin itovic Nafldask Miranda," he grinned as he told her he loved her. He then blew Miranda a kiss and stepped away from the computer.

Not to be outdone, Koji blew his great-grandmother two kisses and stepped away also.

"Okay, boys, thanks for giving your great-grandmother your love. Now you need to hustle back to class," Kyle told his sons. He had pulled them out of school so they could exchange a quick greeting with their great-grandmother. Kyle knew that seeing Miranda would mean more to Koji than to Duskin, but he felt confident that Duskin would be meeting Grandma Miranda some day and he didn't want the two of them to be total strangers when it happened.

"Thank you for having the boys available to greet me," Miranda told Kyle. "Since you told them to hustle back, I assume you took them out of class to do it."

"Yes, I did, Grandma. Koji would never have forgiven me if I hadn't, and I want you and Duskin to get to know each other as much as you can under the circumstances," Kyle responded.

"You're a good boy, Kyle. I'm proud of you in so many ways." Miranda shifted in her chair and her visage became serious. "I know by helping you stand up to that awful Senator Cooper after the terrible things he has said about you, will benefit you. I want you to know that I will do everything in my power to be of help to you."

"He wasn't very nice to you either, Gran."

"I'm an old woman and can handle the lies of political idiots. I've learned a lot about politics helping our wonderful Representative to the World Congress, Ramon Martinez. But I wouldn't give two cents for his current opponent. He's a piece of slime to rival your Senator Cooper."

"Does he have a chance of winning?" Kyle asked.

"The latest polls give Ramon a solid lead, but as that ancient basketball player said, 'it ain't over 'til it's over.'" Kyle knew that the quote came from an old time baseball player, named Yogi Berra, but diplomatically elected to let Miranda's gaffe slide by for now.

"What would you like me to do?" Miranda asked.

"I've talked this over with my teacher and mentor, Commander Hanson and with Dad, and they agree it would be great if you simply made a video for me to show at my press conference. It should tell how you feel about what I am doing on the Sooloo as an officer, and about me and Danny… I mean, Danny and I." Like Koji, Kyle sometimes slipped into old habits when he felt pressured. "And mention Koji and Duskin, too, if you would."

"Your request is something I can do without a problem," Miranda said. "I can also tell how I was never pressured into giving up my custody suit. Rather, you showed me that I was wrong through your actions and through your love. After seeing how happy you were with what you were doing and what you were accomplishing, how could anybody with any sense want to take that away from you? You gave me a wonderful sales pitch, Commander Kyle Robinson, and I am NOT an easy person to sell things to."

"Thanks, Grans. No matter what you do or say, I want you to be honest about it."

"You have nothing to worry about there, Love. Your Grandmother supports you in every way possible. Ramon has an outstanding video tech who I think I can talk into making the video. Your Grandfather Robert, who has a marvelous way with words, can help organize my ideas. That said, what's my time limit?"

"We figure three to five minutes should fit nicely."

 "That shouldn't be a problem. If I think I need more, I'll contact you about it."

"Thank you, Grandma Miranda. You're the best. I love you."

"It helps that I have the best grandson. I love you Kyle and I know you will do well in this endeavor. You've found some good advisors to help you through a tough situation." With that, Mirada blew her grandson a kiss and signed off.

Wednesday, 8 April 2122

Dining Hall ~ 1300

Ian McFlynn stood on the small platform and began to speak, "Many of you may not have met me yet, but I am Ian McFlynn. I am the Sous Chef for our Executive Chef, Randy Jenkins. Normally Randy does these announcements, but seeing how today is his birthday, I have taken on that responsibility for today."

Everyone clapped as Randy stood up. "Most of you, if not all, have already wished me a happy birthday, but this guy is taking things too far. He won't let me in the kitchen." That got laughs as Randy sat down.

"I didn't want you to see the cakes Ben was decorating," Ian countered. "And yes, I said cakes because in three days it will be Aaron Maxwell's birthday."

Randy's and Aaron's cakesBen Maxey and Zac Dalal wheeled out two carts. When Ben uncovered the cakes, they were nearly identical with the only difference being the names. Some of the crewmembers were slightly disappointed, hoping to see two different cakes. Ben explained, "I know I usually make different cakes, but since both of these two work in the kitchen I decided to make two identical ones. Also, I waited to put the names on until last. That way, if Aaron's cake ended up looking better, I could put Randy's name on it, and he wouldn't put me scrubbing pots for a month." That earned a laugh from everyone.

"The funny part is…" Randy teased, "none of the cook's assistants even wear the chef's jacket. They wear aprons; Ian and I wear the jackets, and then Ben wears a baker's coat. And Ben, you ARE scrubbing pots for that remark." Ben began to frown, so Randy added, "Just kidding. We love you, Ben."

Thursday, 9 April 2122

Robinson Quarters ~ 0330

"I'm actually happy that I have the 0400 watch," Danny told Kyle as he pulled back his covers. "I lost count of how many times I got bumped and banged by your tossing and turning and rolling around."

"Sorry. I'm a nervous wreck. Even sex with my true love didn't help last night," Kyle mumbled. "I probably should have asked to sleep in the guest quarters."

"Maybe you could have just tried sleeping, no matter where you did it. I'm gonna go shower and dress. You can now roll around the entire bed and not bump into anybody." Danny started for the door and then stopped. "And since when did anything ever make you a nervous wreck, Mr. Cool, Calm and Collected?"

"Since it completely dawned on me that the news conference is TODAY! I'd rather deal with Azazel, the rogue star, than anything having to do with Senator Cooper."

"You'll do fine, sweetheart. The best of the best in Space Fleet have your back, not to mention Grandma Miranda. Does it get any better than that?" Danny planted a kiss on his husband's dry lips and left the room for his shower.

Kyle closed his eyes and savored Danny's kiss. As he wondered how he could possibly fall asleep, Kyle did just that—he fell asleep. When Danny returned from his shower, he could see that Kyle was in slumberland and moved as quietly as he could as he donned his uniform. He was pleased that Kyle would get a few hours of sleep before having to get up in time for breakfast and the 1030 start of the news conference.

Danny couldn't believe how stressed Kyle was regarding the conference. This was the boy who finished first in Astrogation class, who figured out how to defeat Azazel, who saved the career of Devin French through a combination of calmness and assertiveness. Until now, there was nothing that put as much stress on his husband as the upcoming news conference. Danny reset the alarm to go off at 0745 instead of 0700, which would give Kyle plenty of time to shower and eat breakfast and left the quarters for his watch at the astrogation table.

Kyle was awakened from a deep sleep at 0745. He looked at the clock and wondered how the alarm went off at the wrong time and then realized that Danny must have reset it. He smiled thinking of his husband's thoughtfulness. The time was perfect since the boys wouldn't be awakened until 0800, giving him time to shower before going to breakfast.

Normally classes started at 0700, but with the press conference, Ali and Ritchie decided not to start classes until 1000, so the students could watch. They kept the classrooms open during the normal morning classes for those students, like Tommy, who wanted to study.

Yuck… I'm in no mood for breakfast, he thought. My stomach is a mess, I didn't get a full night's sleep, although I got more than I thought I would. I guess that makes me a total mess.

Kyle headed to the bathroom and showered. As soon as he stepped out of the bathroom, he came across two naked little boys waiting to replace him.

"Good morning, Opsola Kyle," Koji said.

"Good morning, Opsola Kyle," Duskin echoed.

"Good morning boys," Kyle said with as much energy as he could muster.

"Are we all going to eat breakfast together?" Koji asked.

"We'll see." Kyle could see the disappointment in his sons' faces as he turned and walked to his bedroom.

Kyle couldn't imagine taking even small bites of food. As he donned his uniform, he once again wondered how he ended up being such a mess. He wished he had just let that evil Senator Cooper tell all the lies he wanted. Challenging the stars was what he did, not trying to answer questions from dudes from the news media.

Kyle dressed informally in a green tunic and gray sweats. His father, Commander Hanson and Admiral Mirah had each STRONGLY suggested that he wear his dress uniform for the news conference.

"But won't Cooper think I'm trying to feel important and impress everybody by wearing my dress uni?" Kyle had asked Hanson.

"The question is, how would you feel addressing the media wearing the best you have, complete with ribbons?"

Kyle had to consider that for a moment before saying, "I'd feel very proud of who I was and would want everybody to know it."

"Good answer."

Kyle didn't plan to don the uniform until around 1000. He wanted his feeling of pride to be fresh, for the uniform to be immaculately clean and pressed and to be able to pass inspection by Dave and Hal before the cameras were trained on him.

After dressing, he sat on his bed wondering how it was possible for him to be hungry and not want to eat at the same time. He picked Megrez up from his nightstand and looked down at the little stuffed penguin.

"What do you think, Megrez? Am I right to be worried sick about this conference, or am I so into myself that I'm making myself a total wreck?"

He pressed Megrez tightly to his chest waiting for an answer. Kyle knew Megrez wouldn't answer him directly—he hadn't done that since he first put on his senior officer's tunic. And yet, if he paid attention and listened carefully, Megrez would come up with an answer. Sometimes that answer was silence, but even that silence had meaning.

"I know, those are stupid questions, but here's a dumber one. Should I go eat a breakfast I don't want to eat?" Kyle wondered if he was sounding like a little kid who was unable to focus on anything. "Yeah, that was a totally dumb question that you're never even going to hint at, isn't it?"

He was waiting for some kind of a sign when Koji and Duskin barged into the room. "Are you coming to breakfast with us?" Duskin asked.

Kyle was about to chide his sons for entering his bedroom without knocking first. There were some gray areas in the rules and he didn't want to dampen his sons' morning enthusiasm too much. He knew that telling them to eat without him would do that anyway. He would tell them to join their Opsola Danny, who had come off watch and should be in the dining room getting breakfast.

Without even thinking, Kyle said, "Let me put my sandals on and we can go have breakfast together."

Duskin leaped onto the bed and wrapped his arms around his Opsola Kyle. "I knew you would eat was us, didn't I Koji?"

"Yes, you did," Koji replied, happy to see Kyle finally looking happy. He'd had his doubts about whether Kyle would be having breakfast with him. Duskin disentangled himself from Kyle, hopped off the bed and watched Kyle strap on his sandals.

The smiles on the boys' faces were all he needed to tell him he was hungry and really did want to eat. He looked down at the stuffed penguin sitting on the bed and mouthed, "Thank you." Once again, Megrez had answered his question perfectly without answering it directly.

Kyle, Duskin and Koji stepped out into the corridor. After closing the door behind him, Kyle held out a hand at each side. Duskin took his left hand, Koji took his right and the three walked proudly down the corridor to the Senior Officers' Lounge for breakfast.

Drink OrderAfter the Robinsons sat at their usual table, Randy Jenkins came out with juices: orange for Kyle, apple for Koji and mikannoshiru for Duskin. Randy took their breakfast orders, smiling when Kyle asked for his favorite.

Kyle's favorite was exactly what he wanted and needed. Light, fluffy pancakes right of the griddle, eggs over easy, shimmy sausage and a fresh fruit bowl that he and the boys shared. Everything tasted right and made him comfortably sated. The combination of love from Megrez and his sons had chased most of the fuzz from his head. The last of the fuzz left him when Danny walked into the lounge. Because Kyle and Danny were married, Danny had limited use of the Senior Officers' Lounge.

Koji and Duskin were happy to see their Danny Daddy, and each gave him a hug. "Are you ready for the big showdown?" Danny asked Kyle. 

"If I can best a rogue star and pass one of Commander Hanson's grueling astrogation tests, I think I can face a bunch of reporters," Kyle responded. "And like you said, some great people have my back, starting with you."

"You're missing something," Danny observed.

"Steve said he would bring my dress uniform as soon as I call for it, and he will see to it that I wear it with perfection."

"As long as he is only concerned with dressing you, I'll stay in the background."

"Not to worry, Steve can control his dirty mind when he has to."

"I wish we could be in the room with you," Koji said.

"The news conference will be aired throughout the ship. Ali assured me he will have it on in the classroom," Kyle assured his older son.

"But I want to be WITH my Opsola Kyle."

Kyle tapped his chest. "You will be with me right in my heart, and so will Duskin." The two boys grinned, satisfied that meant they would be with Kyle.

In what felt like seconds later, Kyle was admiring himself in the mirror. He thought he looked very professional in his dress uniform. He knew he was ready for whatever would be thrown at him. He looked at his nightstand and picked up the little stuffed penguin that had been with him for half his life.

"I'm ready," Kyle told Danny, who would be sitting with him in the broadcast room. He and Danny left their quarters and made their way to Hal's Ready Room.

Hal and Dave were waiting for him. They gave him a quick but thorough inspection. "Steve did a nice job getting you to look sharp," Hal said.

"Kyle would look sharp in his underwear," Danny said.

"Now THAT would shock the good Senator," Dave laughed.

"Not to mention the media," Hal added.

"Where are we going to set Megrez?" Dave asked.

"I'm sure Brad will find a good location for him," Kyle responded.

Kyle and Dave left for the holodeck where Steve and Brad had created the room where Kyle would sit to meet the press. When they entered the room, Steve was waiting by the chair Kyle would be occupying until the time came for him to answer questions. The chair was situated behind a console that did nothing but looked official. A star chart provided the background. When it came time for him to face the press, Kyle would be standing behind a dais. Brad pointed to a shelf on the dais where Kyle could set Megrez out of the sight of the cameras.

Roger Duncan was sitting a desk that held the equipment needed for the broadcast. It was computer equipment that belonged to Information Systems as opposed to holodeck creations. Ensigns Tai Fujima and Benjamin Kennedy each controlled a camera. The two had been put through three run-throughs supervised by Brad.

Technically, they were ready for the conference. Psychologically, Kyle had expected butterflies, but he was as ready as were the technicians. They were five minutes from the start of the news conference. Kyle took a long swig of water and posed for a moment as Tai and Benjamin tested their lighting and Roger tested the sound. Everyone was ready… it was almost time. 

Ali's Classroom ~ 1015

The younger boys, who were nine and under, would be watching the news conference on the big screen in the classroom under the tutelage of Ali. The boys in Ritchie's class, who were nine and older, would be sitting in the conference, giving Kyle moral support. Koji barked about the issue from the time he finished hugging Kyle until he sat in his seat in the classroom.

Koji sat quietly for a couple of minutes and then started up again. "It's not fair that Duskin and me can't sit in the room with our Opsola Kyle," he groused. "We are his sons, and we should be there."

"Koji, the fact you've loudly complained almost nonstop since you came into the classroom should tell you the reason why you're sitting here instead of there," Ali chided.

"I'm talking because it isn't fair that I'm here. If I was there, where Duskin and I should be, then I wouldn't be talking."



"Keep quiet."

Koji sulked quietly until the news conference came on the screen and then his full attention shifted to what was happening in front of him.

Holodeck 1 ~ 1025

In the "communication" room that was created on the holodeck, Kyle thought about all the work that had gone into preparing for the news conference. Kyle had watched and learned from Senator Cooper's previous news conferences and announcement. His father, Commander Hanson and Dave, along with Danny, who had paired with Tommy, ran him through mock conferences. Kyle felt another smidge of tension leave him as he remembered the help he had received from the important people who had his back.

He left his seat and placed Megrez on the shelf on the dais that Brad had pointed out. Some of the students who knew Kyle primarily as a senior officer, rather than an actual boy like them, were surprised to see him holding the stuffed animal. They watched with interest as he walked up the dais and placed the penguin somewhere under the top of the stand.

Kyle looked at the seats in front of him, filled with the older students. The seats were laid out in tiered rows. Kyle grinned when he saw Tommy sitting in the center seat of the first row, which was on the floor level, and made eye contact with his young brother-in-law.

Seeing he had Kyle's attention, Tommy gave him an informal salute, which Kyle returned. He then stood up, scooted over to the platform, and spoke up. "Hey, Kyle, just do like you've been practicing. You can focus on me, if you want, and talk like you're talking to me just like we did in practice."

Kyle gave Tommy a funny look. "You didn't call me Uncle Kyle."

"I know," Tommy smiled. "This is too important, and I want you to know that I support you, my superior officer, one hundred percent."

"Then call me Uncle Kyle, because that's what feels natural between us."

"Okay, Uncle Kyle," Tommy responded as he stepped around the dais and gave his brother-in-law a hug.

Tommy and Kyle then returned to their seats. There were two monitors suspended from the ceiling, one facing the audience and the other facing Kyle and the communications staff. Everyone was focusing on the countdown. The class avoided shouting out the countdown. Ritchie, who had been briefed on the setup, and threatened anybody counting down or talking out with a fate worse than death the day before, and all the students, who knew how important their silence was, obeyed the protocols perfectly.


WNN Studio – Vegas ~ 1030

The timers hit zero and a face that was familiar to many of the spectators appeared on the monitors. "Good day, World, and welcome to WNN's 'Meet the Media.' I am your host, Brian Merritt." WNN was the World News Network. "Today we feature the long-awaited appearance of Kyle Robinson, the Space Fleet Explorer who, along with the program he is a part of, has been sharply criticized by Canadian Senator Alan Cooper. Kyle is prepared to rebut the arguments of Senator Cooper regarding his role in the Explorer program and the role of the Explorer program itself."

The fact that Merritt did not introduce Kyle as Commander Robinson, was not missed by anybody in the holodeck "communication" room.

"I will now turn the program over to Commander James Bailey, the Chief of Staff of Admiral Robert Crusoe, who will introduce the participants from Space Fleet and the Explorer Program," Merritt finished. "We ask that you hold your questions until everyone has spoken. You never know, one of them might answer your question before you ask it. Commander, it's all yours."

The camera shifted to Jim Bailey. Merritt, Bailey, Commander Hanson and Admiral Crusoe, as well as the attending media were all in the studio. Kyle and his grandmother, Miranda Buckner, would be attending remotely.

"Thank you, Mr. Merritt. I extend the greetings of Space Fleet to you, the members of the media and those of you in the program's worldwide audience," Jim Bailey said with great formality.

"Seated on my right is Rear Admiral Robert Crusoe, who is my immediate superior. He is the Logistics Officer for the Explorer Division and will give a quick briefing on the history and purpose of the program.

"The officer on my left is Commodore John Hanson, an instructor at the Space Academy. He not only teaches Astrogation, but he is also an acknowledged expert in the field, with two published books on Astrogation to his credit."

Rear Admiral Robert Crusoe stepped up to the mike, "I wish to make a correction here, Commander Hanson has not yet been promoted to Commodore. We were planning to make that official at the end of this week, but since my Chief of Staff, Commander Jim Bailey, let the cat out of the bag, I might as well make it official now. Commander Hanson, due to your outstanding work with the Academy, and with assisting not only Commander Kyle Robinson with turning his life around, but several other boys, including one Corey Adams who will be in the Academy this August, the Admirals of the Explorer Program felt you have earned a promotion to Commodore. Back to you, Jim."

Commander Bailey stepped back to the mike, "I'm sorry for letting that slip. I had seen the memo and didn't realize it wasn't official yet. Congratulations on the promotion, Commodore. As I was saying, he will be speaking to the accomplishments of Commander Robinson.

"Joining us remotely will be Miranda Robinson, who is Kyle Robinson's grandmother. She will address the media on some issues brought up by Senator Cooper regarding her and her relationship with her grandson." Her image appeared on the monitors. She was sitting in her living room in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where a network news crew had set up their equipment for the broadcast.

"And finally, we have the officer who came under undeserved attack by the Canadian Senator, Commander Kyle Robinson. He will be joining us remotely from the SS Sooloo thanks to the update technology supplied to us by our friends the Darastixians." The red light on Tai's camera lit up and Kyle's image appeared on the monitors.

Kyle, Brad, Roger, Benjamin and Tai had done a dry run with the WNN technicians on Earth a couple of days before. As a result, Tai's camera was set at a perfect angle and at the correct distance. Benjamin's camera was in position to broadcast Kyle from the dais. Kyle looked sharp in his dress uniform with his ribbons pinned over his left breast.

"Look at the little asshole," Senator Cooper told Pierre Lamont, his chief of staff, ignoring the fact that Bailey, Crusoe and Hanson were all wearing their dress uniforms complete with the ribbons awarded to them during the course of their careers. "He has to get all gussied, complete with his faggot ribbons so he can impress us instead of just showing up in his duty uniform to make it look like he actually did some worthwhile work."

Lamont had worked for Cooper long enough to read him perfectly. The chief of staff nodded in agreement, but he knew that his boss was worried—very worried. If Kyle Robinson came across as the poised, capable officer many said he was, he could hurt the Senator's approval ratings badly. Brian Merritt had helped them in his introduction when he didn't mention the brat's rank and there were some members of the media in the audience who had questions Lamont and Cooper had planted. But Lamont, and in turn Cooper, had to wonder if it would be enough.

SS Sooloo

Holodeck 1

Far away in the depths of space, Kyle Robinson was wondering the same thing—would his efforts be enough to make a difference and bring an end to the Congressional career of a man who had become an enemy of the Explorer Program. He looked at Tommy, who nodded in encouragement and then at Danny who grinned and gave him a thumbs up.


WNN Studio – Vegas

Kyle's attention focused back to the monitor facing him when Admiral Crusoe appeared after a more thorough introduction by Jim Bailey. Admiral Crusoe started with the history, telling how Space Fleet began to realize that in order to explore the farthest reaches of the galaxy their star ships would need to have very young crews. "Space Fleet looked at the sixteen- to twenty-year-olds at the Academy and discovered that as good as they were, they needed not only younger crew members, but also needed the best of the best—youngsters who were at or near the genius level who would be brought into the program even before hitting their teen years."

Crusoe went into the goals of exploring new star systems and planets, making first contact or reviving old ones. Because Senator Cooper had chided the Explorer Program about being all male, Crusoe gave the reasons behind the decision, which mostly had to do with sex and reproduction issues.

"But it's okay for two boys to have sex and raise kids," Cooper groused.

"We are working on bringing girls into the Program," Crusoe went on, "with their own starship, which is currently being outfitted. What we need is enough girls to make up a full crew. We already have several candidates at the Academy, but still not enough for one ship.

"It has been argued that with the introduction of the ultra-fast propulsion systems given to us by the Darastixians, the Space Explorer program is no longer needed and all the kids can go home. Wrong. The young men already in space had everything to do with us getting that technology. They have discovered new stars and new planets, along with bringing us new technology.

"When an Explorer ship returns to Earth, anyone may resign from the program and remain on Earth. Very few have done that—the boys in the program are in love with what they do. Space Fleet Academy left the Explorer classes available knowing they would need some replacements along the way. We were not prepared for the overwhelming number of qualified students who signed up for those classes. The Explorer Program is very much alive, even though some of their parameters have changed."

After Crusoe finished, Bailey introduced Miranda Buckner. "Mrs. Buckner would like to address a couple of allegations made by Senator Cooper regarding her relationship with her grandson."

Puerta Vallarta Remotely

Miranda remained sitting on her couch. The network technicians had placed a microphone above her out of sight of the camera. "Thank you for the introduction, Commander Bailey, and thank you for the invitation to speak, Mr. Merritt. Members of the media, please excuse an old lady for remaining seated. It suits my old bones much better than standing," Miranda grinned.

"I will make this brief, since I know the person you all want to hear is my wonderful grandson, Kyle. But I do want to address some untruths regarding my grandson and me.

"First, Mr. Cooper talked about my application for custody of my grandson because he had been placed against his will into the Space Fleet Explorer Program. That much is true. I did try to block Kyle's final entry into the Explorer Program, arguing that the life of this precious young boy had been placed in danger. I felt this way because I lost my husband when the starship he was commanding disappeared without a trace. I forbade my son, Gregory, from entering into the Space Fleet Academy, to no avail. The court emancipated him from my parental authority."

Miranda took a drink of water and continued. "Then this selfish old lady was visited by the grandson whose life she was trying to run. Long story short, while it didn't happen instantly, from that moment I learned more about this extraordinary young man, especially what his dreams were.

"It became obvious that my son, his father, did not try to force Kyle into the Explorer Program. In fact, he was against it, but the protocols of the Program allowed Kyle to do to his father what his father had done to me—emancipate himself from parental authority.

"But the true turning point, the point where I had learned where my grandson's love resided, was when I had the privilege of having him give me a tour of his beautiful home in space, the SS Sooloo. When I saw how the once quiet and sullen young boy had blossomed into a leader who was totally in love with what he was doing, who displayed a joy in life like I had never seen before, even when he came down to Mexico to try to talk me out of my suit, I realized how selfish I was.

"Some of you, like Mr. Cooper, may say, 'but he isn't even a teenager yet—how could he know what he loves and wants?' The answer is simple. Just get to know him. Learn about him. See what makes him tick. He will win you over in an instant.

"Kyle Robinson, wherever you happen to be in space today, I know you are happy, and I know you will comport yourself well when your turn comes to talk. I would like to finish by saying that his joy is amplified by the love of his husband Danny, and his sons—my great-grandsons, Koji and Duskin. I love you all."

Miranda nodded, her cue to the cameraman and sound technician that she was finished. Her image faded out and was replaced by the face of Jim Bailey. "Lying bitch," Senator Cooper grumbled as her face was replaced by Commander Bailey's.

WNN – Vegas

Bailey started right into his introduction. "It is now my pleasure to introduce newly promoted Commodore, John Hanson, who was Kyle's Astrogation teacher at the Academy and still performs as a mentor to him." Hanson replaced Bailey at the mike and his visage filled the monitors.

"First of all, I would like to express my gratitude on being promoted to Commodore, which for reasons I'm sure will be explained to me, had me jump over the rank of Captain. But all that is for another time. My purpose is not to talk about me, but to talk about Commander Kyle Robinson.

"As a Cadet, Commander Robinson showed a fantastic aptitude for math and ability to use that math to solve the kind of complexities that he would be faced with in Astrogation. I met him for the first time when he stepped into my beginning Astrogation/Navigation class. I was amazed what he already knew about the stars and their locations and things took off from there.

"Commander Robinson was described as a 'cleaner of toilets'. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When Commander Robinson came aboard the Sooloo for duty, he carried the rank of Lieutenant and had been appointed the ship's Chief Astrogator by Captain Bowman. As for who cleans the bathrooms, that job is done mostly by the ship; it is self-cleaning. Kyle Robinson was twelve years old when he boarded the Sooloo as a leader, ready to lead.

"I've had few students with the combination of knowledge, intelligence and ambition that Kyle displayed," Hanson averred, "even in a highly regarded institution like Space Fleet Academy and in a high-powered program like the Explorer Program. It was an honor to be his mentor as he diligently went about learning his new trade.

"During his time as my student, Kyle solved a complex and convoluted test problem that very few students have solved. Those who have were all older teens who were close to graduation. Kyle found an error in a text that had escaped everyone. He had the highest final exam grade of anyone in the Explorer Program. He discovered an issue with the telescopes used in Astrogation on the Explorer Class ships as well as the fix for it. The discovery has been named for him.

Hanson paused before getting into his conclusion. "Kyle has earned many accolades since heading into space, as the ribbons on his chest attest to. Those ribbons are for courage, for actions above the call of duty and deeds above the call of duty. I can't go into the specifics for security reasons; suffice it to say every one of his ribbons and commendations were earned. Kyle's ambition is to become a starship captain. I absolutely have no doubt that he will attain that status someday in the near future, perhaps becoming the youngest Explorer starship captain ever.

"And with that, it is an honor and a privilege to introduce Commander Kyle Robinson, the Chief Astrogator of the Starship Sooloo."

SS Sooloo

Holodeck 1

Kyle felt a surge of adrenaline as he stepped up to the dais, but he quickly realized it wasn't fear he was feeling, it was the anticipation of action that surged through him when a challenge of some sort occurred on the bridge or in some other part of the ship. It was the kind of adrenaline rush that told him that he was prepared to meet the challenge.

The broadcast on the monitor facing Kyle showed camera views of the media representatives in the WNN studio, while those seated in the tier of seats could see Kyle's image on the screen as well as see Kyle in person. Kyle's backdrop was the surface of an Astrogation table showing the same star chart that the crew on the bridge was looking at.

"Thank you for the introduction, Commander… er, Commodore Hanson." Kyle breathed a mental sigh of relief after catching his near error. The time he had put into polishing his introduction had almost backfired on him. "I wish to thank WNN and Brian Merritt for allowing me this opportunity to present my rebuttal to the remarks made about me by our critic."

"OUR CRITIC, indeed, you snot-nosed brat. The last time I looked, I had a name and it was SENATOR COOPER. Don’t be afraid to say it—I can always use the publicity," Allen Cooper snarled as he sat at his desk. “Next time you wipe your ass, IF you even take the time to wipe it, how about using the toilet paper to wipe the smirk off your face and blow your nose into." His chief of staff continued to ignore his boss's tirades.

"I'd like to thank Fleet Admiral Mirah, Rear Admiral Crusoe, Commodore Hanson, my father, my Grandmother Miranda, my brother-in-law Tommy, my two wonderful sons, Koji and Duskin and my amazing husband Danny for their support during the ordeal." Koji and Duskin beamed when they heard their names mentioned.

"I want to start by responding to a few specific accusations that were made. I thank Commodore Hanson for letting you all know what my actual duties were, as opposed to the silliness that was insinuated," Kyle continued.

"Silliness! I'll show you who is silly you immature little shit!" Cooper ranted. "So far everything I've heard from you and those sorry adults you enjoy servicing in bed has been out and out lies and I can't wait to expose them for what they are."

"As you heard from my grandmother and Commander Hanson, I was never forced to join the Explorer Program. I wanted to be here; I wanted to go to the stars. I've loved looking at the stars since I received my first telescope as a small child.

"The things said about Danny and me simply weren't true. Danny and I have been friends since before we started school. Things happened that caused us to lose contact prior to going to the Space Academy, but once we were both posted to the Sooloo, we found each other. We learned we were both gay and have been partners and eventually husbands ever since.

"And as for the senior officers on the Sooloo, they have been nothing but professionals in all the time I've known them. I trust them with my life, as I should be able to on a starship in the depths of space. They have never, and I mean NEVER done anything to violate that trust or cause me to doubt them."

Kyle paused and looked at the media reps being panned by the cameras, wondering how many of them would be hostile. He took a deep breath and said, "I'm ready to answer your questions now."


End Notes:

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