Kyle Robinson fidgeted as he sat in the outer office of the Superintendent of the Space Academy. He wished that whatever kind of meeting he was going to have would happen soon and be over with quickly. Basketball practice was only an hour away.
While Kyle was no stranger to being in trouble, he had always dealt with Dean Pollock of the prep school, not with the Superintendent himself. He wondered what he had done to bring him to this office. It certainly couldn't be for filching Commander Hanson's sunglasses from his desk—he'd returned them next day perched on a pumpkin. Besides, he and Wade Bailey had planned the prank together, and he didn't see his red-headed friend anywhere in the room.
His thoughts were interrupted by the secretary. "Cadet Robinson, Admiral Minor will see you now." She opened the door to the Superintendent's office and Kyle walked in, trying to paste a look of indifference on his face.
Rear Admiral M.C. Minor was sitting behind his desk, successfully showing the lack of expression that Kyle was trying to muster. Kyle slumped into the chair in front of the big oak desk, looking off to the side of the office. "I didn't do nothing," Kyle said with what he hoped was the right air of snippiness in his voice.
The admiral pushed back his chair and rose to his six-foot-two height so quickly that Kyle didn't remember seeing him move. "I think the correct thing to say should have been, 'Cadet Robinson reporting as ordered, Sir'," the admiral barked. "Get up out of that chair and stand at attention. It would appear you slept through training on cadet behavior and etiquette."
Kyle didn't move—his stare remained focused on the wall. "Cadet Robinson, you will either stand in front of my desk at attention, or I will pull you out of that chair and prop you up," Admiral Minor snarled.
"You can't do nothing to me. My father is Admiral Gregory Robinson and he outranks you." When Admiral Minor started around his desk, Kyle felt a moment of fear and jumped to his feet, coming to attention before the admiral reached his chair. "Um, Cadet Robinson, um, reporting, sir."
The admiral glared at the eleven-year-old boy standing in front of him. The boy hadn't been a student at the academy for a quarter and already he was making a reputation for himself, and it was not a good one. Kyle remained at attention and focused his look on the Superintendent rather than on the wall. The six-two, 210 pound, Admiral and the four-nine, seventy-five pound, eleven-year-old Cadet stared at each other. The boy blinked first, looking down at his feet.
"You may be seated, Cadet Robinson. And you will be expected to sit up straight." Kyle sat with his back rigid. He looked in the Admiral's direction without actually looking at him.
"Now what is it that you didn't do, other than not attend English class for your first six years of your school life?"
"That's not a fair thing to say. How could I go to English when Dean Pollock kicked me out of class?" Kyle whined.
"Insubordination is not tolerated here as you are now quite aware of. But think of all the things you are learning while serving your two-week suspension working in the dining hall." Kyle had more than once back-talked Mr. Clark, one of the Prep School's English teachers.
"I wasn't being insubwhatever. He wasn't being fair, and I told him that. My dad said I didn't have to work in the dining hall and was supposed to get my suspension ended. But two high school kids made me go. They were mean." Kyle was referring to two seniors at the Academy, who were proctors for the Prep school. "My dad is going to get you fired."
"Cadet Robinson, it's time for you to understand something about the chain of command. Yes, your father outranks me on the pantheon of admirals, but on the campuses of the Academy and the Prep School I am close to the equivalent of God. Here, only Admiral Jones outranks me. Your father's pull on this campus is close to zero."
Kyle sat impassively.
"But we are going to toss all of that aside. You were not called into my office because of your being in trouble, hard as that is to believe. I actually found the sunglasses-wearing pumpkin to be somewhat amusing."
"How did you know…"
"Cadet, I am going to do the talking and you are going to sit quietly with your hands folded on your lap and listen to what I have to say. Is that quite clear?"
"Yes, sir," Kyle said meekly. Admiral Minor had become the first adult other than his father to intimidate Kyle.
The Superintendent looked down at an open folder on his desk. "Other than Commander Hanson, your teachers have been highly critical of your behavior, your work habits, and your overall attitude. Yet you have the second highest grade in Commander Hanson's Introduction to Astrogation Class, which is not only your most difficult class, but is a high school level class. You are one of only two Prep School students in the class. What makes that class so different?"
"Mr. Hanson is fair to me," Kyle said, figuring it was safe to answer.
"So are your other teachers whether you think so or not. I know there is more to it than that and I'd like to know the secret."
Kyle sat silently for almost a minute and Admiral Minor waited patiently for an answer. "My dad got me into the class, so I guess I should be good," Kyle finally said, hoping he had given an acceptable reply.
"Bullshit." Kyle flinched at the Superintendent's use of the harsh word. "Your father might want you to believe he pulled strings, and all things being equal his influence might have made a difference. But your entrance test scores were off the charts—you were going to be accepted here no matter who your father was.
"But he had NO influence on your admission to the Astrogation class. NONE! Dr. Lawrence was surprised to see you applying for the class." Dr. Lawrence was the seventh year advisor and counselor. "But, you applied, which meant he was obligated to give you the admission test for the class. Only the top twenty-five scores on the test can take the class. Your father had absolutely nothing to do with that. So, I repeat, what is Commander Hanson's secret?" Admiral Minor felt that knowing the teacher's secret to having a positive relationship with a sullen young adolescent he might be able to bottle it for the rest of Kyle's teachers.
"I dunno. I just like the class, I guess."
"There's more to it than that. According to his report, you have never given him a minute of trouble."
"I took his sunglasses and put them on a pumpkin."
Admiral Minor surprised Kyle by flashing a smile. "I think that was more a student having fun with a teacher he likes and respects than an act of insubordination." He sat and waited for Kyle to reply, but the boy was once again silent. "Do you know what your score was on that test?"
"No. Mr. Hanson said he wasn't going to tell us our scores until later so people wouldn't think they were better than everybody."
"Well it was good enough that someone is going to make you an offer. It is the actual reason I called you into my office." Admiral Minor rose and knocked on the door on the north wall of the office. A tall slender man in full uniform walked into the office. Admiral Minor introduced him as Captain Forrester. Kyle recognized the insignia on his uniform—the captain was assigned to Deep Space Exploration. Kyle, doing things properly for once, stood at attention and saluted the officer. He was surprised when the officer returned the salute.
"At ease, Cadet Robinson. You may be seated." Captain Forrester told Kyle who he represented, as if Kyle didn't know, and then told Kyle why he had been summoned to the Superintendent's office.
"We are starting a special program for space exploration. Admiral Minor and I feel you might be qualified. It will mean that at the end of the quarter you would be going to some special training classes. Most of the trainees will be twelve to fifteen or sixteen—there will be very few younger boys like you. Only half of those initially accepted will make the final cut."
"What are we training for?" Kyle asked.
"Right now, that is classified. You will find out more after training starts.
"This will be a long-term commitment. We will give you a couple of weeks to decide if you wish to participate. But, there are some things you will need to do for the rest of the quarter if you want to be a part of the program. You will have to bring your scores in English and History up to an 80 to avoid academic probation. You will treat your teachers with the utmost respect as befitting a Cadet at the Academy Prep School. And, you will end your friendship with Wade Bailey, who I have been told is nothing but bad news. He is going to be lucky to return to school next quarter." Wade was fourteen and a year nine student. He was on academic probation for the third, and final time. If he didn't clear his grades he was finished.
"But he's my best friend."
"You have a pretty good kid as a roommate, you know," Admiral Minor interjected.
"Derrick Lewis? He is so gay. He sits in his underwear and plays with himself when he's studying."
"And your hand never wanders down to your underpants?" Captain Forrester fought back a snort upon hearing the admiral's question.
Kyle's silence answered that question. "I don't care. I don't like him. He thinks he's so perfect. And he's lousy at basketball," Kyle finished, as if that were his roommate's worst crime.
"Do you agree to follow these rules?"
"I guess so. But what if Wade decides to talk to me or something? I mean we have Hanson's class together." Just the fact that Wade was in the Astrogation Class meant he was smarter than he made out to be. He also ranked 25th on his class entrance exam.
"He won't. I am going to tell him that if he approaches you outside of class, he's instantly out of school for good. And if you approach him, your invitation to be in the training program will be rescinded."
Captain Forrester thanked Kyle for his time and attention. "You will need to apprise Admiral Minor of your decision within two weeks of today. You can do that through his secretary. A simple yes or no will suffice." Once again, Kyle rose to attention as he watched the captain leave through the door to the outer office.
Admiral Minor noted that even though Kyle had looked the part of a well-trained cadet while Captain Forrester was in the office, his face still betrayed someone who didn't want to appear too interested in the proceedings.
"I would like your full attention of a few moments, Cadet," Admiral Minor commanded. Kyle then refocused his attention on the Superintendent. "Now, just so you know where you stand, I am going to tell you how you scored on that entrance exam for the Astrogation Class. You had the second highest score of anyone taking the test. You only missed two."
The look of sullenness left the boy's face—Admiral Minor detected a note of pride, instead. "That's really wrong," Kyle said. "I thought I answered everything right."
The Admiral was impressed by the boy's confidence. He pulled out Kyle's test. "You missed number seven and number fifteen. Do you want to see them?"
Kyle nodded and took the computer sheet from Admiral Minor. He looked at number seven and almost gagged. "I made a mistake. I marked the wrong answer. How could I do that?"
"It's happened to the best of us."
Kyle then looked at question fifteen. "That's even more wrong. I mean the answer is wrong."
"I know, that's why you missed the question."
"No, my answer is right. The answer on the test is wrong."
"Are you sure?"
"Can I use your computer?" Admiral Minor heard a determination that was different from the evasive indifference of much of the interview. The Admiral nodded toward his computer desk and Kyle walked to it and sat down. He brought up the calculator and then asked for pencil and paper.
"See," Kyle said triumphantly when he finished his calculations. "They didn't use the right gravitational pull of the largest planet of the second star. That's why the star wasn't where everybody thought it was supposed to be—they got the gravitational pull wrong on the question. You can show Commander Hanson. I bet he'll say I was right."
"Is this how you solved the Icarus question?"
"Nah, that was easy." The Icarus question was a difficult problem of navigation given to students in the upper class Astrogation Course. While the basic problem remained the same, the details were constantly changed so students couldn't look up past solutions. As Commander Hanson got to know Kyle better, he wondered how the preteen, who was showing an amazing adeptness for astrogation, would attack the problem, knowing he was not yet ready to solve it.
Two days later, after skipping all of his other classes and not doing any of his assignments, Kyle laid his solution on the teacher's desk. Commander Hanson was almost giddy when he saw that the young boy had solved the problem. "You got it right, Kyle. You got the damn thing right."
"Yeah, but you made it harder than it should have been. The second computer picture is wrong." He pointed to a star on the first picture. "See where the star is in the real picture?" He then pointed to the computer projection of star location. "Well, if the answer to the problem is right, then the star in the computer picture of the other side should be here." He pointed to a blank spot in the picture. "I can show you my math." Which Kyle then proceeded to do.
"The original picture is of the star system as seen from Earth," Commander Hanson had told Kyle. "The second one was taken by a ship coming out of warp, which changes the perspective. A little bit of work with our photo software moved the star Draco-2 to a different spot. Not many students have solved the Icarus question, but even fewer have caught that anomaly."
Kyle's thinking came back to the office as he heard Admiral Minor ask how he could even begin to figure that out when the wrong location of the star had eluded even seasoned astrogators. "I don't know," was all Kyle said. The Admiral could tell that Kyle was evading the answer.
"Kyle, I know that Commander Hanson is special to you. What makes him special?"
Kyle walked back to the chair in front of the Admiral's desk. He sat with a slight slouch this time. Minor could tell some serious thinking was going on. Then Kyle finally uttered the words that would start to change his life. "He said that the stars talk to him."
"Excuse me?" He was surprised by the frightened look that came to Kyle's eyes. It was a deer in the headlights look. And beyond that look he saw the formation of tears that the boy was obviously working to overcome.
"The stars talk to him. And, you see, they talk to me. And when I found out I wasn't alone...that I wasn't crazy…." He took a deep breath and looked up at the ceiling.
"Is that how you found the two mistakes? Because the stars told you?"
"That's star math. Stars talk math and lots of stuff. When I was six I was outside looking at the stars with my new telescope and I heard things. Not words, just things that I understood. I told my dad that I heard the stars talking and he hit me and told me never to say that again that nobody could hear the stars."
The office went silent except for the labored breathing of the eleven-year-old, who, for reasons he didn't understand, was telling his deepest secret to a man who was just like his father—a man who was an Admiral and knew everything, especially that the stars didn't talk to anybody, not ever.
Since he wasn't interrupted by derisive comments, Kyle went on. "One time when I was ten, I was watching and listening and they made me cry. I didn't mean to cry, it just happened and my dad saw me and he took out his belt and spanked my bottom told me tough boys don't cry."
Took out his belt, Admiral Minor thought. How twentieth century was that?
"Then I learned my teacher heard them sometimes just like me. They don't talk all the time, but if you listen at the right times when you look at them you can hear them. And when you really think hard you can figure their star math."
"What else do they tell you other than star math?"
Another long pause. More uneven breathing. A hand rubbing eyes. A little shudder. Tears. No matter how hard he tried, Kyle couldn't stop the tears. His little body shook and they started to flow. When Admiral Minor stood up and started to come around the desk, Kyle put up his hands in self-defense.
But the man didn't come over to hit him—instead he guided the boy to his feet and put his arms around him. "What do they say? What do the stars say, Kyle?" the big admiral asked gently.
The boy shook. The sobs came harder. His answer was barely audible, and yet it was incredibly powerful. "They say…they say that they love me." And with that, he broke down entirely, crying on the chest of a man who cared for the first time in his young life.
"Nice job handling the kid, M.C," Dr. Lawrence said. "He's a tough case." He had been in the conference room connected to the Superintendent's office, observing the meeting on a video feed.
"That he is." The Admiral was changing his shirt. "This is why I have a spare shirt. It's for more than spilled coffee. Even though I don't often deal with students directly, young Kyle isn't the first to break into hysterics in my office."
"Having Derrick Lewis escort him back to their room was a good touch."
"He doesn't like Derrick, but his roommate is a great kid and a good citizen. Maybe it will help start a little bonding. Or not," Minor sighed.
"On the one hand Kyle suffers from affluenza. He knows his father will bail him out of trouble, which was true until he was admitted here. On the other hand, his father shows him no affection and gets what he wants from intimidation. Commander Hanson is the first man in the boy's life who has taken the time to understand him."
"Do you think Kyle will accept the invitation?"
"I do. I also think he won't have what it takes to make the cut to the finals. But, the experience will still be good for him. There will be times he will have to stand up on his own two feet."
"I wish you were wrong, but I agree that he won't make it to the final group. I doubt he will make the first cut. I wish I were wrong. His talent at astrogation far exceeds any of the older boys who have studied the subject. But his maturity level and self-image is poor even for a boy soon to be twelve."
"Nonetheless, I am rooting for him to succeed here," Dr. Lawrence said. "He has so much potential. I hope Admiral Mirah and the teachers and coaches at the project will understand that they have a diamond in the rough."
"I want him to succeed, as well. I took a real liking to the boy during that meeting, even if he worked hard at the start to not be on my good side," Admiral Minor chuckled. "He has some real spunk that could serve him well if he learned how to channel it properly." The Admiral paused for a moment and then went on. "You know what I think upset him the most when he left?"
"Missing basketball practice?"
"Yep. Ironically, if he were to succeed, basketball, one of the big positives in his life, will never be a part of it again."
Kyle lay on his bunk looking up at the ceiling of his room, squeezing the crumpled message in his hand. He had received it an hour ago. It was an order to meet with Commander David Bowman. Kyle knew he would be the captain of one of the twenty ships what would soon be sent on exploratory trips into deep space.
Bowman had been a student in his Introduction to Astrogation class the previous year. He was sixteen, and an upper classman at the Academy while Kyle was the bottom rank at the Prep School. Kyle had liked Bowman well enough until Kyle's discovery of an error on the entry test had given Kyle the top score instead of Bowman. While Bowman was always proper and professional in his dealings, it was obvious to Kyle that Bowman resented losing his top score to a kid who was not yet twelve. Kyle had no idea why Bowman wanted to see him. He decided the reason couldn't be good.
Less than a year ago, a few weeks before he had turned twelve, that Kyle had been called into the Superintendent's office. Students weren't called into Admiral Minor's office, at least not lowly Prep School students. They went to see the Dean of the Prep School just like Academy students saw the Commandant of the Academy. The Superintendent, who was the chief administrator of the schools, dealt with only the most serious student matters.
What Kyle learned was that he had been chosen for special training. He wasn't told exactly what it was about, but because of his astrogation skills he had been picked for the training. He had two weeks to decide.
Kyle talked to his father about it. His father told him only grunts volunteered, and he was not a grunt, so forget it. Kyle asked his father what the training was for and was surprised to learn that his father didn't know. No matter, the fact that his father didn't want him to volunteer was all of the incentive Kyle needed to volunteer.
Some students, including his roommate Derrick, had not made the first cuts, for whatever reason. Kyle had some issues with Derrick, mainly because he was always playing with himself while he studied. He didn't mind his roommate masturbating under the covers, because Kyle did the same thing. But when Derrick sat at his desk with a hand buried in his pants, Kyle found that to be offensive.
Still, Derrick had always been nice to him, especially the day he lost it in the Superintendent's office, giving him a shoulder to cry on. For better or for worse, Derrick was really the only friend that Kyle had during training. Kyle had returned Derrick's earlier gesture by allowing his thirteen-year-old roomie to cry on his shoulder when he found out he would no longer be in the space explorer program.
The next morning, Kyle reported to the program headquarters promptly at five to nine. His appointment was for nine, but he had been taught that if you arrived on time it was like arriving late. Sometimes, he actually listened to what his superiors taught him.
"Cadet Robinson reporting to see Commander Bowman," he told the office secretary. He was quickly ushered into the office he knew belonged to the Commandant of the program. Bowman was sitting at a table set off to the side of the Commandant's desk. Kyle saluted.
Bowman returned the salute and instructed Kyle to be seated. Kyle studied the seventeen-year-old seated across the table from him. He was a handsome specimen of young manhood and carried the confident bearing of a person born to lead. He had an open file sitting in front of him on the table, which Kyle surmised was his duty folder.
Bowman was not impressed by the twelve-year-old sitting in front of him. His brown hair was thick and as unkempt as hair could be and still remain within the boundaries of a military cut. His uniform as clean and tidy, but still looked like a uniform that was being worn for play rather than for an important interview. Bowman remembered Kyle in his classroom togs when they had class together—they had looked even scruffier than his good uniform. Bowman had read that Cadet Robinson had been written up more than once for his appearance, which resulted in only temporary improvement.
"I see where you are one of the star players on the Prep School basketball team," Bowman noted as he tried to put the young boy sitting in front of him at ease.
"I play for the school team," Kyle said modestly, slight grin of pride breaking out on his face.
"Who are your best friends?"
"I dunno. Derrick Lewis was until he got moved from our room. I liked Wade Bailey, but I was told I couldn't see him anymore. I like Rod Greely from basketball, but he wasn't picked for training." Bowman knew from his files that Kyle was a loner. He was looking for team players, not loners in his command. On the other hand, he had high marks from his basketball coach on how well he fit into the team. He commented on his unselfish play and hustle as the team's starting point guard. "He might not be big, but he makes up for it by fighting like a wild man in practice and in games," the coach commented.
David Bowman thumbed through Kyle's file, although he already knew what he wanted to say. "It says here that you have been quite the student of astrogation. You're number one in advanced training, in fact."
The advanced test consisted of sitting in the simulator as it presented a simulation of coming out of warp. The student had to look at the new locations of the stars and give an evaluation of where the ship was located. So far, Kyle had the fastest calculations as well as the most accurate scores. He had given the proper location the first time on 50 of 52 simulations, for a score of 96.2%. He realized he'd made an error on one of his incorrect simulations and got his reset correct within the allotted time. He'd gotten completely lost on only one simulation and two months later he was still trying to figure out what he had done wrong, if anything.
While Dave Bowman was good at astrogation, it didn't interest him as a course of study. He had taken the introductory course because it was a requirement for any officer wishing to eventually move into a command position. He knew that the little preteen seated across the table from him lived in an entirely different zone when it came to astrogation.
"I like the stars," Kyle stated, almost dreamily, with a shy grin on his face. It was the first time Bowman had seen anything but the reticent face of a young adolescent.
After a few standard questions, Bowman decided to end the interview. He knew the immature looking young boy was not for him. He had a reputation as a bit of rebel, something he'd seen in the class they'd had together when Kyle disagreed with the teacher. Bowman had to acknowledge that Kyle was usually correct when he disagreed, just like he had been when he'd discovered the error in the entrance exam or in the Icarus problem.
"Before we close, do you have any questions?" Bowman asked.
Kyle's stare drilled right into Bowman. "Why am I here?" he asked in a tone that insinuated that the entire affair had been a waste of his time.
"Why, to interview for a position on my ship, of course."
"What position? I'm not gonna be the little kid who gets assigned to clean the bathrooms." Bowman was set to send the arrogant kid out of the room instantly, but he kept his cool and his patience, as a good leader should.
"The one you've been training for and the one we talked about—Chief Astrogator."
"You mean I'd be navigating through the stars?" The entire tone of Kyle's voice changed in an instant. "I'd be in charge of getting us to where we're going just like in the simulators?"
"If I pick you, then yes, you would be."
"Then why didn't you say so?"
Bowman thought he had spelled it out, even if he didn't say the specific words. He saw this interview as being a courtesy interview, after all. Sure, the kid was a star in the classroom, but he wasn't going to have a kid who hasn't even made it out of the Prep School get the responsibility of navigating his ship—especially one with the kind of conceited attitude and reputation for making trouble as the boy in front of him had.
"I believe I did," Bowman replied. He then thanked Kyle for coming in. After the young boy left Bowman went over his final decision yet again. He had made the decision even before the interview with Cadet Robinson, which he considered a waste of his time.
As Kyle left the interview, he was certain he had blown any chance he had for a place on that ship. He knew there were other ship's commanders interviewing and hoped he'd be considered for something. He realized he would need to improve his act if he wanted to get on one of the twenty ships and get away from his father forever. His father hadn't spoken to him since he volunteered for the project. He was tired of his father's act—tired of how he used his clout to get him out of trouble and to see that he got what whatever would make his father look good, while at the same time treating him like he was a stinky piece of shit floating through his father's well-ordered life. The only way he could get away from all of that was to get named to one of the twenty crews and go into space until he grew up into a man.
Cadet John Luke sat back in his chair in the interview room. John Luke was his choice as his Chief Astrogator—of that he had no doubt. Luke was a senior in the Academy, and made the cuts. Bowman had taken some classes with him and knew him as a solid kid and a top student. While he didn't have the score on the simulator tests that Robinson had (51 of 55, a 92.7% score with one mistake recovered), nor the speed of the young boy in calculating his location, he was a team player that had the make-up of a ship's officer.
Bowman was certain Luke would improve—he'd been number one overall in the Advanced Astrogation Training Session. Bowman closed Kyle Robinson's file, certain he would never open it again. As he pictured the sullen young boy who had sat in front of him, two things ran through his mind.
First, he really hadn't been clear from the start about why he was interviewing Kyle, mainly because his interview was a courtesy to his superiors who asked him to interview the boy. Second, when the subject of the stars and of being an astrogator came up, his entire demeanor changed. Did he want the proper officer with lower scores as his Chief Navigator, or an untried boy whose scores were off the chart? One thing that was obvious to Bowman was that John Luke had to work at his understanding of the stars, while it all seemed to come naturally to Kyle Robinson.
He could make Kyle the Assistant Astrogator, he supposed, although there were two others, both older academy students, whom he'd interviewed who were highly qualified, but not as qualified as Kyle. There was also the question if John Luke would listen to Kyle in the event of a disagreement. One thing he knew for sure, none of the others he interviewed would be willing to serve as Kyle Robinson's assistant.
He left the office with his mind made up—or so he thought.
The following day, Commander Bowman was summoned to Admiral Mirah's office. He barely got seated in the outer office when he was escorted into the inner sanctuary.
Bowman saw the Admiral sitting behind his desk, which had folders and papers piled on it in neat stacks. One of the folders was open in front of him.
Admiral Mirah had become a mentor and a father figure to the young Commander and he generally felt very comfortable coming into his office. This was not one of those times. "Commander Bowman reporting as ordered, sir."
"Cut the crap, Zip. You know that once the door closes, the military courtesies are suspended if we are alone."
"I understand, Bill," Dave said as he took a seat in the chair stationed along the right side of Mirah's desk, "but I don't usually get an emergency summons to your office. I assumed I was in some kind of hot water."
"When is the last time you've ever been in hot water, son?"
"Well, when I was thirteen, I um…"
"Never mind, I get the picture." Bill Mirah pointed to the open file on his desk. "I see you've made your choices for all of your senior officers except astrogation. Who are you considering?"
"Well, sir…sorry, Bill, I believe I made the right choice last night. I was going to send you a memo to that effect later today. I have chosen Cadet John Luke. His scores aren't as high as Cadet Robinson's, who I interviewed at your request."
"Cadet Luke's scores were slightly higher than those of, Cadet Robinson's scores, but if we factor in his simulator scores, Robinson's were higher than Cadet Luke. I hope age wasn't a factor, because that was thoroughly covered in training. Theoretically, you're all going to grow into adults." Dave knew there was a reason Mirah used the word "theoretically" and let it go.
"Age was not a factor. I considered the reaction of the rest of the crew—I simply didn't see Cadet Robinson's personality as being a good fit. He has had his, well, difficulties in training. Frankly, I was surprised he even made all of the cuts. He certainly didn't impress me much." Except when he talked about the stars, Bowman thought to himself.
"I am well aware of Cadet Robinson's shortfalls in the personality department. He has been a lone wolf since he arrived at the Prep School and especially since he started training. Making someone a vital part of a team is what a good leader does."
Bowman reddened at what he saw as a rebuke.
"Well, I want to call Luke and Robinson for an interview together. When they leave I am going to insist that Cadet Robinson be either Chief or Assistant Chief Astrogator. The rest of the crew doesn't have to like him, but they will follow his orders."
Two hours later, John Luke and Kyle Robinson were sitting in the Admiral's office being interviewed by Admiral Mirah and Commander Bowman. Mirah asked most of the questions, but made sure Bowman had an opportunity to be an important part of the process.
Nothing really happened to convince Commander Bowman to change his mind—he was still leaning toward Luke. But, as the interview drew to a close, Cadet Luke threw the two officers a curveball.
"Sirs, with all due respect, I believe Cadet Robinson should be Chief Astrogator. He knows his way around the stars like he was born in a star cluster. I would be honored to be his assistant and will not only obey his orders; I will enforce his orders with the crew."
Bowman's respect for John Luke was solidified by his unselfish request. There was no doubt Luke was a team player. "Thank you for that, Cadet. I totally respect your decision." Admiral Mirah nodded. His feeling mirrored those of Dave Bowman.
Bowman then looked directly at Kyle, who was trying to process what was unfolding in front of him. He did his best to sit properly and look like he knew what was going on. "Please rise, Cadet Robinson and Cadet Luke." Kyle and John stood at proper attention. "Congratulations, Cadet. I will be assigning you Chief Astrogator of the SS SooLoo. And Cadet, I am assigning you the position of Assistant Astrogator." He shook the hands of both boys.
He glanced at Admiral Mirah. The Admiral stood and congratulated the boys, shaking their hands as well. "With the power invested in me by the Admiralty, I am promoting both of you." He asked John Luke to step forward. "Congratulations, Cadet Luke, you are now Lieutenant Luke." He shook the teen's hand again.
"Cadet Robinson, please step forward. I am promoting you to the lowest rank that can be assigned a Chief of Department" He shook the preteen's hand a second time as he said, "Congratulations, Lieutenant Commander Robinson.