I had hoped that I would be finished editing HIGH TREASON; but, although I am close, I am not done. I spend more time working on ELDER’S DILEMA than editing plus, real life keeps getting in the way. I just have a few pages left, then I start making the changes in the computer file. I am sorry that this is taking so long.
Elder turned back to Captain Smith, but he was turning in a circle, looking at the landscape. The bulkheads aboard a ship were bland and boring compared to the natural wonder visible from this glade. Even the dead carnivore had a bit of charm compared to a bulkhead. Elder wondered about agoraphobia and how many of the colonists would have it. Growing up in the confined spaces of a space ship, regardless of how big it is, would not prepare one for the wide-open spaces of nature. Maybe the colonists would need counselors trained in such matters as soon as the colonists began moving to the planet. Need, but probably not get as those counselors, if they existed, were Jumps away. It would take months for the need to reach those who could act and for those too act and then for the counselors to arrive.
Captain Major Major was also looking at the landscape, but Elder guessed that the Marine was watching for carnivores instead of beauty. Predators here would have no fear of humans and spotting them early was a great protection. So, as well as counselors, hunters or whatever profession would be needed to teach the colonists how to deal with wildlife would have to get here ASAP. What other professions would the colonists need, but Elder realized he was worrying needlessly. After all, colonies were established all the time, but it was rare that a colony started on a world that had not been surveyed and where as many of the dangers as possible had not been discovered. Some bureaucrat probably had a list of what professions the colonists would need in what situation. Then again, if this situation had not happened in a long time, and Elder was not sure just how often it did happen, then the information might have been lost or destroyed. Elder hoped that hadn’t happened, he wanted this colony to succeed.
Captain Smith finished his circular inspection of the surrounding area and faced Elder. “Not this entire planet is like this, is it?”
“Of course not, Captain. Every planet large enough to merit colonization will have a wide variety of climates and environments. After all, not everyone likes the same thing. Maybe you like confined spaces and drab, boring corridors and rooms but there are some of your people, I am sure, who will welcome a different view. Give them the options, and they will make different choices. Some will like the mountains, some the seashore, some the prairies, some the forests, and some the cities you will build.”
Captain Smith took a deep breath, and looked around gain. “My ancestors fled the Federation because it was a despotism, the rule of law was a farce and in order to survive you had to pay off various bureaucrats at various offices. If your name was not on a list of contributors, it might go on a list of soon-to-be prisoners or missing people. They had hoped that they founding of the colony Liberty would allow them to live lives free from the despotic bureaucrats due to its distance from Earth. When the Soviet arrived, my ancestors saw the generation ship as a means of escaping in a way that the Federation could not trace. They tricked the Soviets and took control after the first Jump while the Soviets were confused. Mixing Jumps with generation travel, the LIBERTY arrived here. The Soviets wanted to flee further, but my ancestors decided to stay here. We needed the ship for support so the Soviets were tricked again and the fighting started with the sole purpose of keeping the ship here. The gift of the Communist Manifesto was a way to distract the Soviets. However, my ancestors fell into the trap of staying aboard the LIBERTY for fear of the Soviets discovering we were settling on the planet and fleeing with what we needed. We never moved to the planet and eventually only the ship’s Captain and Executive Officer were ever taught that this was our idea and hope.”
“Well now you can settle on the planet just as your ancestors wished Captain.”
“But, from what little you have said, your Empire is worse than the Federation. We will have to flee again and hope that you will never find us. Or else, you will kill us.”
“It isn’t that bad Captain. Yes, the Emperor is an autocrat, but the various layers of the aristocracy mitigate that. It is in the interests of the various kings, dukes, counts, barons, earls, and all the rest to keep the Emperor from ruling too harshly. After all, ruling too harshly increases the chance of a widespread rebellion and that could end up killing the aristocrat. In addition, the distance from Earth makes it hard for the Emperor to rule in detail on each world. General rules and guidance is normal with detailed governance being left to the levels of the aristocracy that are closer to the situation. My first boss, just after I graduated from the Academy, became ruler of his kingdom due to such a rebellion. It was more of a terrorist attack really, but it killed many of his relatives. However, the point I am making is that he was of the opinion that all politics is local. The local count was better at dealing with local problems than he would be as king. I have paid attention to politics since then and I agree with him. This planet will have a Duke and various Counts and a King over that Duke; and once your population expands, you can establish colonies close by, each headed by a Duke under the King. The Counts and Dukes will interact with the population closely and govern more effectively than the King of Emperor can, since they will not know the details or the solutions. You won’t be as bad off as you fear. Especially since the local aristocracy will come from your own people.” Elder hoped that he was not telling a gigantic lie here. He believed in the Empire but knew its dark side. However, this planet was far enough outside the present edge of the Empire that the King and Duke could govern without the despotism these colonists feared. At least, he hoped so.
Captain Smith took yet another look around. “Could we go to some other places? I want to be able to describe more of the planet than just here.”
“Sure Captain. This Class-R Ship’s Boat has the range to fly anywhere on this planet. I’m not the greatest of pilots, but I can get the job done.”
The Captain Major spoke just then, “However, I would suggest that we stay aboard at most places, Captain, just in case the local predators get past me.”
“Good point Captain Major. Well, let’s be off then.”
Elder flew the ship’s boat to several other locations, landing at most, but, for example, flying low and slow along a seashore. There were enough ports and cameras to give as much of a view as Captain Smith wanted at each location. Elder did land and everyone got out so that Captain Smith could feel both a rainstorm and a snowstorm. Elder made sure that neither wee not severe, he did not want to scare Captain Smith after all. All of this fascinated Captain Smith but the topper was the night sky. Seeing stars in space was overwhelming but the more limited number visible from the planet’s surface was more comprehensible and thus more awe-inspiring.
“Well Captain, have you seen enough?” Elder enjoyed flying the Class-R Ship’s Boat, but he had enough of it, he wanted to get back to his ship and this Class-R Ship’s Boat was not his ship.
“Yes, I think so. I may need to give tours to various members of my staff and other important people so that they can see the planet and realize that I am not brainwashed or something similar.”
The Captain Major smiled one of his rare smiles, “And once they are beguiled also, you can start moving to your new home.”
“However Captain, I have duties aboard the MACALPIN, so I won’t be your pilot for these inspection tours. I will assign a young officer, perhaps an Ensign or a Sous-Lieutenant to do the piloting and answer any questions your people may have.” Elder rubbed his nose, wondering who he was going to assign to be the pilot.
Back aboard the MACALPIN, Elder released Captain Smith to his people and started catching up on his workload. Even a trained, experienced and competent crew needed supervision, and there were always duties that were designated to the Captain of a ship. Elder tried to emulate the captains he most admired and keep his supervision to a minimum but he was still busy. Being responsible for everything that happened was a heavy load and Elder wanted to have some warning if something was going wrong. Assigning a pilot for the colonists was easy, he just took whoever was next on the duty roster. This would give the colonists a wide variety of viewpoints about the Empire, although people in the Navy were very pro-Empire, just not as much as the ISA.
Once the colonists decided to stay, the Class-R Ship’s Boats from the MACALPIN and the HINO were able to transfer the colonists in one trip. That freed the HINO to leave and it did. The Soviets settled on one continent, in the southern hemisphere, and the Federation colonists settled on a larger continent that ran lengthwise between the northern and southern hemispheres. A third continent was, for the time, left in its natural state. The generation ship had a large supply of prefabricated and easy-to-assemble buildings that the MACALPIN transferred to the various locations on the planet’s surface where the colonists were. The HINO left and the MACALPIN was alone. Elder was going to stay until relieved, he wanted the colonists to have some consistency in their oversight.
A full Imperial month later, a small squadron of ships appeared, ;ed by the Class-I Cruiser TOKYO. Elder had served on the TOKYO right after the BALKANS was destroyed during Captain Mizutani’s rebellion. Seeing the TOKYO brought back memories, both pleasant and unpleasant. Friends murdered by rebelling Marines and Navy personnel, the destruction of his first ship, the wonderful poker games and Drenthar games, including a championship game aboard the BALKANS that his team barely lost. Drenthar needed a larger ship and the TOKYO was just large enough to have room for Drenthar, but only Class-G Dreadnoughts had room for football fields. Elder had not been able to keep in touch with most of the friends he had made in the various ships and bases he had served on but he had a lot of fond memories of them. But, the TOKYO would be here soon and travelling down his memories got none of his work done. It was pleasant, for the most part, though.
“Captain Yorick to Lieutenant Commander Elder.”
Elder had known that the communication was coming, so he had adjusted his schedule in order to be free now. “Elder here. Captain Yorick, are you in charge of this expedition?”
“I am Lieutenant Commander, or rather Lieutenant Captain. I have your promotion orders skipping the rank of Commander. Put two more gold stripes on your uniforms Lieutenant Captain.”
Lieutenant Captain? Elder knew that his orders to Commander were waiting for him back at base, he knew about them before leaving on this voyage. Nevertheless, to skip a rank like this? It has happened, Quinn skipped Lieutenant Captain because of his service in First Fleet, but that was routine, everyone skipped a rank after serving in First Fleet. Outside of the Imperial Guard, it was rare.
“Thank you Captain for the information. My new uniforms back at base have the two gold stripes of Commander, which I already knew about, this is a shock.”
“Well, you can thank Captain Quinn. His report on what you have been doing here was crucial in the decision to jump you the extra rank. We knew from their first reports that these were no aliens, so we had this expedition set up and on its way when Second Fleet gave you the boost Lieutenant Captain. We got the information while still in system and I am happy to surprise you. By the way, is Captain Major Major nearby? He got a promotion also, he is now Major Major. I have been trying to remember, wasn’t there a famous historical military figure called Major Major? You know more about pre-Imperial history than I do from what I’ve heard.”
“Captain, I’ve been thinking about that very point, off and on, ever since I took command. I finally found the reference. Major Major was a fictional character in a story about the Second World War. The book was a satire on the military of the day.”
“Ah, now I remember Lieutenant Captain. Catch-22, wasn’t it? I read that book just a couple of months ago to my grandson.”
“That’s the one Captain.”
“Well, we will be relieving you in a few days Lieutenant Captain, once we reach orbit. So you can return ot base and celebrate. Second Fleet reassigned you exploration tour to another ship, the BOLESLAW THE BRAVE, K00092C-0047.”
“Speaking of reassignments, the TOKYO used to be in the 4th Fleet, I was assigned to her right after my tour on the BALKANS Captain. When was she transferred to the 2nd Fleet?”
“About three years ago Lieutenant Captain. You were on the BALKANS? When the mutiny happened? That is where I heard of you. Aren’t you the telepath that foiled that mutiny?”
“Not quite Captain. The telepath was Sous-Lieutenant Palmer. I knew him and when the mutineers killed him, I was able to get his information to the Operations center and Lieutenant Captain Tomalo was the one who frustrated Captain Mizutani’s mutiny. That is all I did.”
“That is still pretty impressive Lieutenant Captain. Did you get the Emperor’s Medal for that?”
“No Captain, I didn’t; I got the Imperial Cross.”
“Good job though Lieutenant Captain.”
“Thank you Captain. Anything else?”
“No, I’ll sign off for now Lieutenant Captain, see you in a few days. INS TOKYO off.”
Elder looked around his Day Cabin, looking for something to focus on as he contemplated his sudden jump in rank. He settled on the photo of Constance. Constance had followed him from base to base and showed her pride in his accomplishments in many ways, usually in the name of the design and decorating company she started anew each time they had transferred. She and he had talked about where they wanted to settle when he retired from the Navy, he would be eligible after a couple more promotions and she could focus more on her design work. She already had an extensive reputation as designer and once they settled, that reputation would only grow. Maybe she would be more famous than his father, the Mushroom King, was.
Heading back to base before the six-Imperial month tour was over was nice and a lot of the crew would be extremely happy at that. Elder wondered for a second if he would be taking the Master Herald and his staff back as well. The MACALPIN was not configured for a large number of passengers but for a few Jumps it would take, it might work. However, leaving them here to work with the new team would probably be better. At least, it would be better for Elder. He reached for the intercom.
“Battalion Commander, report to the Captain’s Day Cabin.” He would tell Major Major privately and let him inform the Battalion. Elder would make a general announcement to his crew about his promotion tomorrow.
The Battalion Commander showed up, with a worried look on his face, an hour later.
Once he reported, Elder said, “Relax Major Major. Yes, I got your rank right. Second Fleet promoted you effective immediately. Go put the second gold sunburst on your sleeves. I got a promotion also. I would have made Commander when we got back to base but that is now skipped and I am a Lieutenant Captain. Second Fleet likes our good work here it seems.”
“Well Captain,” the now relieved Major said, “that’s good news.”
“Oh Major, there is better. Second Fleet cancelled our exploration tour effective immediately, we head back to base once the TOKYO and her supporting ships reach here. I forgot to ask if the Master Herald and his crew are staying or going with us. But, we will find out in a few days.”
“Aye Captain, that is better news. I presume that promotions and transfers for the crew and my battalion will happen once we reach base.”
“Probably, that is normal. There will be a chance for a good party there.”
“Well, thank you Captain. I will inform my battalion now.” The Battalion Commander did something that Elder had never seen in real life before. The Major drew his ceremonial sword and gave Elder a Sword Salute. Elder had seen such salutes in holovids but never in person. This was a rare honor.
Once the Major left, Elder sat and just quietly enjoyed both his promotion and his heading back to base to see Constance again and early too. She and the youngest kids should be back from Krasgia now.
The TOKYO and her group of supporting ships arrived seven days later. The Master Herald and his crew transferred, with some complaints about transferring again, to one of the support ships. The crew of the MACALPIN threw a party to celebrate their Captain’s promotion. Unlike the birthday party, this was a lot more rowdy and three junior crew spent a night in the brig.
The MACALPIN spent the extra time to pick up the message torpedo sent to the wrong system trying to prevent a diplomatic contingent expecting aliens. Arriving back at base, Elder lost almost half his crew to transfers and so spent a lot of time getting used to the new members of his crew. Everywhere he went on base, people recognized him as someone lucky and smart. People wanted to be connected with him, which he liked. Women, not all of course, but some, wanted to be his mistress, which he did not like and refused every time. He was not going to lose Constance even if having a mistress was becoming fashionable in the Empire now.
The MACALPIN did not need a lot of repair work, so most of the next six Imperial months was spent in getting the crew to work together as a team. Constance and he spent as much time together as they could but work for both kept them apart more than either liked.
The Empire continued on.
It took over an hour of pressing Executive Officer Smith before Elder challenged him to prove that he wasn’t afraid of the open spaces on the planet and go with Elder on a visit. Executive Officer Smith accepted the challenge at last. Elder and the Captain Major took Executive Officer Smith immediately to a hanger to board a Class-R Ship’s Boat, grabbing their sidearms along the way. The trip to the planet’s surface went without incident Elder took the helm, he had few chances to pilot a Class-R Ship’s Boat anymore and anyway, he had a specific reason to do so now. He wanted to land in a specific type of area and he wanted it to be a surprise to Executive Officer Smith.
Elder first flew around the generation ship, showing Executive Officer Smith its size. Then, he did a couple of orbits of the planet to show its size, and incidentally, allow him to spot where he would land. Smith, seated in the cockpit in order for him to get a good view, said nothing the entire time. Elder was not sure if he was impressed or if he was continuing his silent treatment of the Imperials.
On the first planetary orbit, Elder spotted a large prairie, several hundred kilometers in all directions, with a large forest close by where he intended to land. Mountains rose in the distance but would probably still be visible from Elder’s chosen landing spot.. Woods, rivers and rolling hills completed the landscape.
“The landing might be a bit rough; none of my people have yet landed to explore this area, so there might be features that I don’t know about. But, we should be fine.” Elder was not telling the whole truth here, with the maneuver drive, he could land vertically and avoid any rough places in the ground. The only problem could be the weather, but Elder picked this specific prairie because the local weather was good right now. The instruments on the Class-R Shi’s Boat indicated no strong winds, rain or anything other than a clear, warm day. Elder was going to introduce Smith to weather gradually.
It was an easy landing, the maneuver drive was working perfectly and Elder was still a good pilot in spite of his lack of recent practice. Elder knew the composition of the atmosphere from the MACALPIN’s earlier probes so he had no worries about opening the outer hatch. The exiting order was the Captain Major, Executive Officer Smith with Elder bringing up the rear. He did not like it, he never did; but, for this one time, he didn’t complain.
Executive Officer Smith looked around and held his hand up, to feel the breeze Elder thought, and slowly walked around the Class-R Ship’s Boat. He stumbled a bit, obviously not used to uneven ground, but stayed upright. The bright sunshine made his eyes water.
“And you are just giving this to us?” Smith’s voice was low and full of wonder.
“I do not know how many generations you and your ancestors have been orbiting this planet, but it gives you a claim on it Executive Officer Smith. The Emperor wants every habitable planet colonized. That has been the goal of the Empire ever since its founding. Once humanity is in place everywhere, then cultural and material progress can proceed in leaps because so many different planets will be working on it from so many different angles. We may never reach a Utopia, but we can advance.” Elder kept pushing the advantages of the Empire, if he did not, he expected that the Federation colonists would rebel and thus the Empire would slaughter them. Elder did not want that, he had a kind of admiration for them being so true to their ideals.
Executive Officer Smith wandered around the area, examining various plants and creatures, insects mostly. His face showed a growing sense of wonder and awe. Elder considered himself lucky, a fear of open spaces could have been the result of being cooped up in a generation ship for generation upon generation.
Elder decided to take a chance and eliminate some of the uncertainty about the situation between the two sets of colonists while Smith was distracted. “So, Executive Officer Smith, what was the book your Federation ancestors gave the Soviets?”
“The Communist Manifesto.” Smith realized just then that Elder had tricked him and turned on Elder with a snarl. “You double-crossing scum.”
“No. One way or another, we were going to get the information Executive Officer Smith. All of the colonists, yours and the Soviets, are going to leave the ship and either settle here or we can settle the Soviets elsewhere if need be. I just shortened the time needed to start getting the information. The Empire cannot allow competing star nations. That will lead to interstellar was and the possible destruction of the species. You can settle here, or die. You cannot flee now. My ship is too fast for you and we can follow you wherever you go, and bring enough firepower to ensure that you become subjects or die. Interstellar war has to be prevented.”
Smith growled, “Always a tyranny. Never do the people have any freedom. I’d almost rather die if I cannot flee and be free.”
“And your women and children Executive Officer Smith? Are you enough of a tyrant to condemn them to death as well?”
“Captain Jones is dead, I am the Captain now.”
“And that means you get to kill them without a trial, without a say in the matter, Captain Smith? Tyrant.”
Captain Smith did pause and start considering that point. After a minute or so, “The Captain has to rule the ship with authority, Orders cannot be debated endlessly.”
“In combat, Captain Smith, yes. If the orders are unclear or endanger the crew needlessly, then those orders need to be questioned. I am the Captain of the MACALPIN, and I cannot rule with impunity. I have to follow the rules or else I am punished. Your ancestors on Earth believed in liberty and the individual, and yet, here you are destroying those principles for your own power. Tyrant.”
Captain Smith again seemed to consider what Elder had said. Elder considered this a good sign. If Smith had just rejected Elder’s comments without thought, there was probably no hope. Moreover, Elder did want to save these colonists from destruction. Every colony added something to the Empire.
“And what you say is true? Your Empire would kill all of us just to keep the peace?”
“Captain Smith, I cannot prove that I won’t lie; how could I? However, it is a fact that the Imperial Navy hates Imperial officers who lie and conditions them accordingly. It took a long time for me to learn to bluff in poker as a result. In addition, it is more than just keeping the peace, although that is a great part of it; it is preventing an interstellar war that could destroy the species. The need of the many outweigh the need of the few, to use an old cliché.”
“A game between players involving betting. A bluff is an effort to make others think your hand is better than it is when your hand is weak, or the other way round.”
Smith held up his right hand, “Hand?”
“Kind of Captain Smith. Do you know what cards are?”
“Yes, we have many card games and dice games and throwing games and board games.”
“OK Captain, in poker, the most popular version in the Navy, each player is dealt some cards that the player holds in his hand, thus the cards are called the hand. The cards, as a group, will have a rank and the highest-ranking hand at the close of each deal wins the deal, also called a hand. There are various forms of poker, but the basic principle is the same.”
Captain Smith nodded in understanding, “I think I understand what poker is. But, does keeping the peace, regardless of how noble the goal, justify trampling the citizens?”
Captain Major Major moved off to one side and began concentrating on a small gulley nearby. Elder noticed this but paid no more attention to it.
“Taking care of their subjects is the responsibility of all the aristocracy, Captain, who hold fiefs. Imperial subjects are well fed, no one starves, everyone is well educated, and have guaranteed freedom of press, religion, and so forth.”
“As the ancient saying goes: Cattle are well-cared for until the slaughter.”
“Interstellar war is the slaughter Captain. The Emperor honors the lives of all her subjects.”
Captain Major Major drew his sidearm and fired. Elder had a glimpse of a tawny form rushing towards the group and its head exploding from the concentrated energy of the blaster beam. Elder had his sidearm out but did not see anything threatening. Smith looked at the remains of the beast, shocked that something would attack him. Both Elder and the Battalion Commander returned their sidearms to their holsters.
“That sort of thing would never happen aboard the LIBERTY. Why should I subject my people to such?”
“Instead of wild animals, you have human predators Captain. You have been fighting the Soviets for generation upon generation. A fight you could have won at any time. A fight started when your ancestor gave their ancestors a book. At least wild animals are more honest. The fighting started when once you gave The Communist Manifesto to the Soviets, they revere it; I have seen the shrine, and you have kept the fighting going all this time. Now imagine that happening with each side having millions of fighters, billions even. The death toll, the number of destroyed planets, would stagger anyone’s mind. Why didn’t you end the fighting? Why did your ancestors force the fighting to drag out over generations? This is a nice planet, you could have dropped the Soviets off and kept going but you stayed here and stayed trapped in endless violence. Why?”
“They are rebels.”
“No, they are not. Captain, your ancestors set this situation up and continued it long past any reasonable time, generation upon generation. Your weapons could have destroyed the Soviets at any time. You are responsible for the fighting that has continued for generation upon generation. Well, it ends now. You are settling here on this planet and the Soviets with you or somewhere else. I don’t care which.”
“It is for your own good Captain. Think of the children. Here you can build your own civilization, under the Empire, and not have to worry about your destruction or the destruction of the species.” Elder remembered that Imperial policy was to absolutely destroy any duchy that successfully rebelled, but put that out of his mind for now. That could come later, much later. “Eventually, and when this will happen I cannot predict, you are going to run out of food aboard your ship and what then? Cannibalism?”
That was a point that Smith had never considered, evidenced by his shocked expression.
“MACALPIN to the Captain.”
“Captain, the HINO is getting ready to depart. All the Master Herald’s staff are aboard the MACALPIN.”
“Ask the HINO to wait. We may need their Class-R Ship’s Boats to help transfer the colonists, both sets, to the planet’s surface quickly. A few days more, if these had been aliens, the HINO would be here for weeks more, so there shouldn’t be a hardship.”
“Aye Captain. I’ll pass the word along. MACALPIN out.”
It was only one day before the Master Herald was in Elder’s Day Cabin complaining about Officer Yorick. “Lieutenant Commander Elder, the man you have assigned to work with Herald Brice is totally unacceptable.”
“Master Herald, you forget yourself. This is MY ship.” Elder had been practicing that growl ever since he graduated from the Academy. He had it down to a science now, with shades and undertones that gave that simple growl a language of its own. “You do not tell me who I can assign to any task, just as I do not tell you who you can assign to any task, I do not know who your Herald Brice is and I do NOT care right now. I assigned Officer Yorick to the task of researching the colony ship Liberty because he has specialized in that period. If your Herald finds him abrasive, your Herald can either deal with it or quit. I will also remind you that you are on an Imperial Navy warship and therefore under my jurisdiction. If you think that my actions are in error in any way, you may complain to my immediate commanding officer once the MACALPIN has returned to Section Headquarters. If you do file a complaint, the Section Commander will, probably, refer the matter to the Section Legal Officer/ The Section Legal Officer will research the Imperial Laws and Naval Regulations pertinent to the situation and declare my actions appropriate. So, Master Herald, do not try to intimidate me, it will not work.:”
Every aspect of Master Herald Killea that was passive became even more so. Elder thought of a scared creature trying to hide from a predator and not succeeding. Elder could become addicted to bullying the Master Herald.
With some small evidence of a backbone, the Master Herald whined, “Lieutenant Commander, if your man cannot work with my man, no work is going to get done.”
“Master Herald, Officer Yorick is an exert in that ear. If your man cannot work with my man, I suggest you replace your man.” Elder could not back down now, he had established himself as in charge and he needed to stay in charge.
“Lieutenant Commander Elder, are you trying to bully me?” Master Herald Killea used words of defiance but the tone of his voice was still that of a nonentity, Elder wondered if the College of Heralds promoted based strictly on seniority and not merit. How could such a nonentity make it to a senior rank?
“Master Herald, I am not bullying you, I am pointing out that this is my ship and that Officer Yorick is highly qualified in this historical ear. Is he abrasive to work with? Yes, but he is still the most qualified person for the job. Being abrasive is not a crime. I could consider you to be abrasive for your conduct in this matter.”
“Lieutenant Commander, I could order my Heralds to stop working with your people.”
“So much the better Master Herald. My people can get the job done a lot faster without the interference of your people.” Elder recognized a bluff on the part of the Master Herald.
he Master Herald was silent for almost two minutes before, “Since you are so adamant Lieutenant Commander, I sill instruct my people to give your people more benefit of the doubt in the interpersonal working relationships.” The Master Herald got up and left without curtesy.
Heralds were the diplomats of the Empire, and if Master Herald saw the traps of his bluff, if bluff it was, he decided that it was better to stay involved instead of going home in a snit. Elder had those thoughts after the Master Herald was gone. Also, he wondered, again, how the Master Herald had been able to rise to the rank, Elder decided to ask someone who would probably know.
“Communications, find out if Captain Quinn is available.”
Five minutes later, “Lieutenant Commander Elder, this is Captain Quinn; you requested to engage me in conversation?” Yeah, it was Quinn all right.
“Aye Captain Quinn. I have some questions concerning the Master Herald. Can you give me some psychological background on him? He and I are having a bit of a command problem.”
“Lieutenant Commander Elder, you are in command of the MACALPIN, what problems could there be?”
“Captain Quinn, the Master Herald was under the impression that because he was the senior herald and in command of the diplomatic team, that gave him command over me and the MACALPIN. Has he always been such a dork?”
“Lieutenant Commander Elder, given that I am in command of the complete mission, most of my dealings were with the Grand Herald. Master Herald Killea was habitually in the background and contributed nothing to any discussion I had with the Grand Herald.”
“I know you had a lot of problems with Jump Sickness, something like two thirds of the expedition suffered. How did that affect the Master Herald Captain?”
Quinn made a shamed face that disappeared in a second. “Lieutenant Commander the Master Herald experienced the symptoms, but only slightly and he recovered quickly. He was among the earliest to recover.”
“So you cannot really help me get inside of his mine. He tried to dictate who could work with one of his people and I had to get rough. Captain, I doubt he has ever dealt with the Navy before. I wonder how far he got on his entrance examination; probably not past the first part is my guess.”
Quinn laughed, a rare event in Elder’s experience. “Lieutenant Commander Elder, failing to pass the first two parts of the entrance examination is the experience of something close to ninety-five percent of the testing population. If the Master Herald did fail, he is in good company.”
“Well Captain, I will just have to keep my foot on his throat. I cannot have him trying to run my ship for me. I would make a horrible ship’s captain if I let him control me. Not unless I want to be relieved as soon as we return to base and never get another command. Still, he has to knw something about how command works.”
Still chuckling, Quinn said, “However, one of the benefits of command is the ability to bully others with fewer consequences. Remember that Lieutenant Commander, the Navy always protects its own. The Master Herald cannot win any battle with you, even if he is right. However, I expect that when he is right, you will acknowledge that and not abuse your authority.”
“Captain Quinn, as much as I would love to punch him in the nose and throw him in the brig, I am smarter than that. The Navy may protect me from him and the College of Heralds, but the Navy will take revenge on me for embarrassing the admirals and command. Moreover, that means a dead career. And I am enjoying my career right now. Maybe I’ll get promoted to Grand Admiral ahead of you.”
Quinn chuckled at that, which shortly became a real laugh, and then a full belly laugh. Elder hadn’t heard Quinn laugh so hard in years, Quinn was normally too serious, too conscious of his family responsibilities.
After about a minute, Quinn slowed, stopped and then said, “No Lieutenant Commander, I suspect that your career will not result in your reaching Grand Admiral prior to my achieving that objective. I have too many connections; nevertheless, I can assert with some certainty that you will quickly acquire a promotion to Captain as a result of finding this Lost Colony, or rather Colonies. Resolving the quarrel between the two and bringing both into the Empire might even gain you a head start on Fleet Captain. I am due for promotion to Fleet Captain in the near future according to family connections in Naval Headquarters.”
“Well Captain, I have to get through Commander and Lieutenant Captain before worrying about Captain or Fleet Captain. You may be getting promotions faster due to family, but you still have to earn them. I am keeping up with you, sort of. When are you due for promotion to Fleet Captain?”
“That I do not know Lieutenant Commander. I deem that it will come about because of the mission, even though there were no aliens with which to initiate diplomatic contact. It may already have happened, in anticipation, and once I return to base I will substitute my four gold stripes for the single silver star.”
“Good for you Captain. I wouldn’t normally be due for promotion to Commander for two months and if you are right, and I do get jumped to Captain, and I will be the first officer in the navy to do so if I remember right, Constance will be surprised.”
There was a little more banter between the two before Quinn singed off. Elder sat in his chair and pondered his options with the Master Herald. He decided to outflank him.
“Communications, get me the Battalion Commander.”
After a short while, the Battalion Commander was on the line. “Yes Captain, what is it?”
“Captain Major, have you made any progress with the colonists? The Federation colonists I mean.”
“No sir, they are still as stubborn a before.”
“I want to talk to the Executive Officer, now acting Captain. I realize that he probably won’t talk at first, but I think I can break this open. But it has to be him.”
“Aye Captain, I’ll send him over. Do you mind if I take part? I’d like to see you break this open. I am frustrated enough to use Alexander’s famous method of undoing the Gordian Knot.”
Elder knew the reference. And he chuckled a bit wondering who the Battalion Commander would use his sword on. The swords of Sharnalt were ceremonial but still sharp and dangerous.
It was two hours later that the Battalion Commander and the Executive Officer of the LIBERTY arrived at Elder’s Day Cabin. The Executive Officer was a short, completely bald man with tired brown eyes and large ears that stuck out as if they were badly glued to his head. The Captain Major held onto the right shoulder of the Executive Office quite tightly. There was no way for the Executive Officer to escape and if he did escape that grip, Elder was sure that the combat training of the Marine would lead to a quick recapture. The Captain Major looked pleased and the Executive Officer looked glum.
Elder indicated a seat and the Captain Major offered it to the Executive Officer and when he stayed standing, used a quick martial arts move to force the Executive Officer into the seat. The Captain Major then took a seat to the right and next to the Executive Officer. Elder settled back into his comfortable chair.
“Captain Major, introduce us.”
“Aye sir, this is Executive Officer James Smith. Executive Officer Smith, this is Lieutenant Commander Jesip Dwight Roger Allen Elder, Captain of the INS MACALPIN.” The Executive Officer made no acknowledgement of the introduction, He did raise his face a little bit, in defiance, before settling back into the chair. It was not as comfortable as Elder’s chair, but it was OK.
“Executive Officer Smith, I have studied Pre-Imperial History, in fact, I taught it for two years. So let me explain what I believe happened to your ancestors. Your ancestors on Earth were the ones that opposed the increasing centralization of power in government and especially the transfer of power to the UN. They especially opposed the Federation when it formed from the UN. Once they had an opportunity to establish a colony, especially one with a spaceship manufacturing capability, they took it. They probably planned on building their own ship and fleeing into unknown space to settle and live according to their beliefs. The Russians showed up in a multi-generation ship and your ancestors took advantage of that large ship, already built, to advance their goal. Installing a James Drive they conspired with the Russians and fled just at the start of the Colonial Revolt or War of Unification, it does not matter which. Taking the tie=me to find a habitable planet, you arrived here. Now here is where I am at a loss. Instead of settling on this planet, your ancestors aboard this ship started a war between them and the ancestors of the Soviets. A war the Soviets could not win but which your ancestors here let drag on for generation upon generation.”
Executive Officer Smith looked startled. then he obviously began some hard thinking. Wrinkles appeared on his brow and deepened. Elder smiled to himself, this was the first crack in the Federation colonist’s armor that he knew of.
“We found your secret room with the expanded log books. We are searching now and will soon have all the answers we need. the Emperor does not allow for independent nations which might cause an interstellar war, and I agree with that philosophy, so you will become part of the Empire. Join willingly and the aristocracy you will have governing you will come from your people. Resist and the Emperor will impose the aristocracy on you. In either case, your planet will have a full division of Imperial Marines as well as a horde of bureaucrats assigned to the planet to teach you how to be good subjects of the Empire. The Emperor gives you no choice. No choice whatsoever.”
“You say you oppose interstellar war but this is a warship You are a liar.” Executive Officer Smith’s voice was a gravelly baritone.
“This is a survey vessel and we may run into aliens. Those aliens may not be peaceful. So the Empire maintains a Navy of warships and survey ships.”
“But your Empire is based upon force, forcing us into your Empire without giving us a choice.”
“Interstellar war has to be avoided. If there are separate governments and not one Empire, then war is inevitable. Whole populations will be wiped out, maybe the entire species.”
Executive Officer Smith looked uncomfortable but determined. Elder decided to press on, he had to break through to this man.
“There is a wonderful planet that your colony ship orbits Executive Officer Smith. Have any of your people ever been down to it and investigated it? Maybe your children would appreciate the wide-open spaces there rather than the cramped corridors here. Or are you agoraphobic from living aboard your colony ship all your life?” Executive Officer Smith looked puzzled, Elder realized that the word agoraphobic had no meaning for Smith. “Agoraphobic means having a fear of open spaces. Living all your life aboard your colony ship with the corridor walls so close is a widely different situation from being able to look around and see for vast distances. You know how long your colony ship is, right; well you could walk for hours without constantly turning corners. That is, in part, what wide-open space means and you are afraid of it.” Executive Officer Smith bridled at that claim. Elder pressed on.
Two weeks passed, ten days of hard work for almost no progress. The Soviet colonists were easy; they talked all day long if you let them. However, that verbosity gave forth no new information to add to what the Imperials already knew. Master Herald Killea and his people started classes for them on how to be good Imperial subjects. The descendants of the Federation colonists were stubborn. Any information gleaned was by accident.
Captain Major Major sat roughly in one of the chairs in the Day Cabin. “Captain, my interrogators are frustrated. What little information we have gotten is by accident you might say. Reading body language rather than getting an answer, let alone a straight answer, from the Federation types is how we have been able to advance. One thing that we have learned is that they do not like us identifying them with the Federation. Quite a few of them have let slip their disgust with the idea. You know more about pre-Imperial history than I do, but wasn’t the Federation something of a despotism?”
“Something of a despotism? Captain Major, the Federation was the worst tyranny known to history. Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin were babes compared to the Federation. They had every phone or computer bugged with the information going to the Bureau of Education and an estimated 15% of the population were informers. No one can be sure of that number sine so much was destroyed in the Colonial Revolt and War of Unification. Antonino Calegari grew up in that environment and his psychological studies had a heavy dose of how to suppress the population. The Empire he founded was in large part the same. The expansion of the population and the resulting difficulty in communication has eased the burden as much as it has. Emperor Caroline cannot control any duchy not within a couple of Jumps except in the loosest way. The local aristocracy governs and they are closer to the population. Even then, there are kingdoms and duchies – and you know the ones I mean – that oppress their people and get away with it solely because they are loyal to the Emperor. I is the very size, and the resulting difficulty in communications that result, that allows the kingdoms and duchies to be as free as they are.”
“Captain, the Navy and the Marines could impose the same sort of despotism that the Federation had if we were ordered to.”
“True Captain Major, and the ISA being composed of fanatics, tries to impose despotic control where they can. Nevertheless, the local aristocracy would have enough power to keep the Navy and Marines, and the ISA, from taking power from them. The balance of power, between the ISA, the military and the aristocracy keeps any one from imposing such a despotism. Only the Emperor, being at the top of the three, could do that. There are too many kingdoms and duchies in the Empire for the Emperor to control directly, the aristocracy has to control the locals and the military and the ISA are the checks she needs to keep the aristocracy in line.”
The next day. “Sous-Lieutenant Heller to the Captain.”
Elder knew the Sous-Lieutenant, he knew all four officers and fifteen enlisted in the History Office. He also knew that Sous-Lieutenant Heller was the Section poker tournament champion. “Go ahead Sous-Lieutenant.”
“Sir, and I apologize for not thinking of it earlier, but we have discovered the colony the Federation colonists came from. That colony name was Liberty. A large group from North America settled it. The colony was discovered as destroyed during the War of Unification.”
That made sense to Elder. Moreover, a colony with that name would not be welcome in the Federation. In addition, if they considered the Empire to be the same as the Federation, that would explain their resistance to rescue.
“Good work Sous-Lieutenant. Forward whatever information you have on the colony to the Captain Major and the Master Herald. They can make sure it gets to whom it needs to get to. With this information, we should be able to break the code of silence the Federation colonists have. Send me a copy also. Elder out.”
Elder received the information within five minutes. Looking at the size of the file, he considered the small size of it. Yes, the Colonial Revolt and the War of Unification destroyed much of the data from that time but this was odd. Most Federation colonies had much larger files on their pre-Imperial existence even after the chaos that surrounded the establishment of the Empire. A quick computer search showed that the file was about one-third the size of the average pre-Imperial file on the Federation colonies. It was slightly less than half the size of the next smallest file.
Elder read the file, three times, and he still did not understand what he read. What was the Liberty Party and why did it go underground decades before the establishment of the Federation? The government of the country variously known as America or the United States was a democracy, and worked hard to ensure that the Federal Government suppressed hate speech and other forms of unmoral behavior. He would have to revisit that era and concentrate on the North American region in order to understand this.
“Captain Major to Captain Elder.” This interrupted Elder’s musing.
“Elder here. What’s wrong Captain Major?”
“I wish to apologize for the lateness of this but one of my scouts just discovered a hidden compartment in the Federation part of the ship. During previous sweeps, no one had mapped the area and compared it to the deck plans we had. Now that we have started mapping the ship more carefully, we have discovered a compartment hidden near the library.”
“Have you been inside Captain Major?”
“Yes sir, in the company of some of the Master Herald’s people. The compartment is an auxiliary library. The Master Herald’s people are investigating what it contains but there is a computer system not interfaced with the main computer system as well as dozens of physical books and other papers. I had wondered about the Ship’s Log, if you will remember sir, I mentioned that it seemed incomplete shortly after we took control.”
“Vaguely Captain Major. There was a lot of new information back then and it probably got lost in the overload. Is there a more complete Ship’s Log in this compartment?”
“Aye sir. The Master Herald sent word to the HINDO and Captain Quinn and some of the HINDO are on their way to examine it as well.”
An interruption came from the Bridge. “Captain, the HINDO has a message for you. It is marked CLASSIFIED and URGENT. Please come to the Bridge to receive it.”
“On my way. Well Captain Major, this must be Captain Quinn informing me of what you just told me. Elder out.”
It did not take long to get to the Bridge and his Command Chair. Once he activated the security measures, he clicked on the urgent message. “Lieutenant Commander Elder, this is Captain Quinn. I and several of my staff will travel to the LIBERTY and examine the recent discovery of the library annex. I presume that the Captain Major has informed you of the discovery but he may not have the knowledge that the Master Herald has informed me of its existence. Therefore, I wish to inform you of my information in order to maintain proper protocol. Captain Quinn out.”
Trust Quinn to keep proper protocol, he always had. Of course, as he rose in rank, this habit increased, as it should have. He was grooming himself to become Grand Admiral, as his family expected great things from him and so far, he had achieved them from what Elder knew of Quinn’s career.
Releasing the security measures, Elder called to Lieutenant Moyar. “Lieutenant Moyar, I am heading to the VOLGA to examine this new discovery. Contact Sous-Lieutenant Heller and have him, or whomever he designates, go over and help examine this new data. You have the Bridge.”
“Aye Captain, I have the Bridge.”
It was easier to get to the VOLGA now; instead of flying over, a transfer tube connected the VOLGA and the MACALPIN. Another such tube connected the VOLGA with HINDO on the other side.
In less than fifteen minutes, Elder was at the hidden compartment, escorted there by a Marine Junior Warrant Officer. Elder made the trip in silence.
The corridor outside the Library Annex was crowded with Imperial people, mostly from the Master Herald’s staff. Elder pushed his way through. A Marine Corporal in a Combat Suit stood guard at the door, keeping unauthorized civilians out.
Elder was quickly let in, to the protests of several of the members of the Master Herald’s staff. Inside the compartment were the Captain Major, Captain Quinn the Master Herald and an enlisted crew member that Elder did not know, so he presumed the crew member was from the HINDO and probably with Captain Quinn’s staff.
Quinn turned his head to look at Elder, waved his right arm to encompass the entire compartment and said, “Lieutenant Commander Elder, I have formed the opinion that amongst these archives is the answer to most, if not the entirety of the remaining questions concerning this ship and its occupants.”
“You might be right Captain Quinn. How about you Master Herald, do you think this is the end of our search for answers?”
In his nobody voice, “Perhaps, but I doubt that this archive will answer all our questions. Some riddles may never be solved. That is the nature of historical research. But, this will answer a great many of our questions, certainly.”
“Well Master Herald, how long do you expect it to take for your first reading of this material?”
“Perhaps a day or two, I doubt much longer. Unless, of course, there is more here than first reported.”
Sous-Lieutenant Heller showed up just then. The compartment was not crowded; it was surprisingly large and uncluttered. “How the hell did we miss this until now?” Obviously the question was rhetorical, at least Elder thought it was obvious.
The five Imperials gave a quick scan of the material in the compartment. Elder reminded Sous-Lieutenant Heller several times to move on past whatever he was studying because this was a quick scan, not a thorough examination. After an hour, which Elder enjoyed, they found nothing definitive regarding what had happened over the decades since the VOLGA had left the Earth. They did learn a bit more about the colony Liberty which explained some of the attitudes of the present descendants of those colonists but the mysterious book and the agreement about the fighting, for example, were still mysteries.
Elder finally quit, and assigned his History Department to the task of researching the data in this hidden compartment.
As he left, “Captain Major, how did your people find this compartment?”
The Captain Major fell in with Elder, “Well sir, it was simply that I wanted a more accurate deck plan. There are several areas where the deck plans the Soviets gave us were inaccurate and I wanted accurate ones. Therefore, I assigned my scouts, who were not in use as scouts at the time, to mapping the decks. The sensor sweep found this unmarked area and it didn’t take long for my scouts to discover how to enter.” The Captain Major smiled one of his rare smiles. “So, you might say I got lucky but I was frustrated by the improper maps and followed procedure for when we are entering an unknown urban area.”
“Well Captain Major, good training paid off.”
“Aye sir, it did.”
Back on the MACALPIN, “Captain, Master Herald Killea wishes to speak with you. He is using an open frequency.”
“I’ll take it in the Day Cabin. Thank you Senior Sergeant.”
Once in the Day Cabin, “Lieutenant Commander Elder here. What do you need Master Herald?”
“Lieutenant Commander, the hidden compartment is revealing a lot of information, not all of it processed yet. I believe you should know that the colony Liberty was reported as destroyed during the War of Unification, but there is a report, dated after that report, stating that the colony is merely missing, not destroyed. Depending upon which report you believe, either the colony destroyed the faculties on the planet in order to make it look destroyed or the fact that the colony went missing was covered up.”
“Fascinating Master Herald. How much time between the two reports?”
“About what would be an Imperial month now Lieutenant Commander. About three Gregorian months by the calendar of the time.”
“So Master Herald, again we have conflicting data. Was this data from the Imperial archives or from what you found in the concealed compartment?”
“Imperial archives Lieutenant Commander. We are searching specifically for confirmation, one way or another, in the data here. Given what little we know of the colonists of the colony Liberty, I am presuming for the moment that they destroyed the colony in order to make it appear that they were killed in battle.”
“But Master Herald, what about bodies? If the fighting had destroyed the colony in battle, wouldn’t there be bodies? What do the reports say about that?”
There was a silence lasting for over a minute before, “Lieutenant Commander, I don’t know. I never thought of that. I do not remember anything in the reports, and I just finished reading them. I will have one of my people research that.”
“And I will have one of my people doing the same Master Herald. Two people working on it should cut the time needed to get an answer in half, or better.”
“That is a good point Lieutenant Commander. If you have someone qualified in this era, the assistance would be welcome. Since the Imperial archives are on the MACALPIN, I will have someone come over to do the research. Expect someone within the hour. Master Herald Killea out.”
Elder stared at the bulkhead while fuming. Was the Master Herald implying that the Imperial Navy training was inferior? Or worse yet, incompetent? He had the thought of assigning Private First Class Wharton, the lowest ranking enlisted in the History Department and a recent graduate of the history technical school, to the task. However, he decided against it. The idea of doing so, however, did get him smiling.
“Communications, get me Sous-Lieutenant Heller.”
“Sir, the Sous-Lieutenant is on his way to meet you. We just got his message.”
“All the better. I am in my Day Cabin. Elder out.”
It was fifteen minutes later that Sous-Lieutenant Heller reported to Elder. Acknowledging the salute, which in the Day Cabin was not required but the Sous-Lieutenant was reporting which made the salute required, and then motioning for the historian to sit down, Elder asked, “The Master Herald has someone going through all the reports on the destruction of the colony Liberty. Who do you have on that Sous-Lieutenant?”
“I had assigned Officer Yorick to the task but the Master Herald objected. It seems the Master Herald believes that Imperial Navy training is not rigorous enough and that an Officer lacks experience.”
“I know Officer Yorick, Sous-Lieutenant, he was one of my students at the Academy some years back. Why hasn’t he been promoted to Ensign? He is due, or past due, isn’t he?”
“Well sir, he is a good historian but he has trouble with naval discipline. Was he a problem at the Academy sir?”
“Not that I recall, or if he was, it was very minor Sous-Lieutenant. What sort of problems are you talking about?”
“Sir historians are well known for being opinionated and quarrelsome. Officer Yorick takes that to an extreme. Half of the enlisted in my Department have asked that I not assign them to work with him. I had to discipline him once because of a fistfight he had with another officer. Officer Yorick would do better someplace where he could do his research without interacting with other people.”
“Has he any published research Sous-Lieutenant?”
“As of the start of this voyage sir, no paper he has presented had been accepted anywhere. His latest research, before the start of this voyage, was on why Antoninio Calegari succeeded during the Colonial Revolt, presenting the unusual theory that the soon-to-be Emperor was an early telepath who had not become discovered and that is why he was able to get the rebels to convert to his side so easily. His paper was well written and he makes an interesting case. It is just that, I believe, he cannot support it with enough facts. And it seems the scientific journals agree with me.”
“Well Sous-Lieutenant, there are reports of telepathy going back centuries and not all were ever disproved.”
“Sir, Antoninio Calegari was a psychologist as well as a Federation Navy Admiral. The use of psychology can easily explain his success. There is no evidence in any scientific studies that telepathy can force a change in people’s minds.”
“However Sous-Lieutenant, his historical knowledge is debatable. Look at the aristocratic titles as an example. A jumble from several cultures with no relationship between the power of the Imperial title and the power of the title in its national form. And so many ranks in the Imperial Navy and Marines. He cannot be blames for the tax system, that grew over the years but he can be blames for the large number of money denominations. His skills were purely military, in spite of his advanced degree in psychology. His historical knowledge was pathetic at best and because he was the First Emperor, we remain stuck with his errors. If he had been a telepath, I suspect he used what he gained from that in order to help his psychological work in converting people to his cause. I knew a telepath shortly after I graduated from the Academy and I still remember that, at least according to him, it takes time to be able to read someone’s mind. Maybe Emperor Antoninio had that time and maybe not. A lot of what he did between the Colonial Revolt and the War of Unification was never recorded.”
“Sir, you sound like a republican.”
“No Sous-Lieutenant, I believe in the Empire. Interstellar war has to be avoided and independent planets, or even multisystem nations, will lead to war.”
Sous-Lieutenant Heller looked unconvinced.
“However, back to the matter at hand Sous-Lieutenant. Not knowing who the Master Herald is assigning to this task, is Officer Yorick likely to get so involved that he forgets to be combative?”
“Sir, he might get so interested in the colony Liberty that he forgets to be abrasive. The destruction of the colony is in the period that is his specialty. However, that might backfire as well. He might take his own knowledge and research and use it to advance an idea that is not supported by what we know of the colony Liberty and his abrasive personality might lead him to violence.”
“Your call Sous-Lieutenant. If not him, then who?”
“Actually sir, the more I think about it, the more I like Officer Yorick. The Master Herald has been condescending towards us and Officer Yorick just might teach the Master Herald to not be so obvious in his prejudices.”
“Heralds are not historians as a general rule, they’re diplomats. So what basis does the Master Herald think he has for being condescending towards us Sous-Lieutenant?”
“Well sir, they are kind of historians since they handle genealogy and that involves historical research. However, the Master Herald just looks down on the Imperial Navy as a rule. Moreover, that prejudice has become the norm for his people as well. Especially the younger ones.”
“Sous-Lieutenant, if Officer Yorick starts something that makes me have to intervene, I will cashier him when we return to base. It will not be as easy as if he was still on probation but his lack of promotion to Ensign and your recommendation, and documents showing his abrasiveness, will do the job. Impress on him that if he wants to make the Navy a career, he has to act better. Unofficially, he can step on the toes of the Master Herald’s people all he wants as long as I do not get involved. Understood?”
“Aye sir. I’ll brief him right away and get this going.” Sous-Lieutenant Heller stood, saluted and left.
Elder sat and pondered. The Federation had been a huge tyranny, and the Empire started off as a tyranny also, but it was getting better over time. The aristocracy on Krasgia while he had been growing up had been mild and cared for the population. The King of Sharnalt had even stood up against the Emperor once or twice according to legend. Elder could understand why the descendants of the Liberty colonists leaped at a chance to flee the Federation. However, why go with a bunch of communists, after all, communists were just the same sort of tyrants. What was missing? There was something that was not visible to him, something that should make the pattern clear,
“Captain Quinn, you wish to speak with me?”
“That is affirmative. there is much to discuss between us, starting with my earlier conduct during the voyage to your ship Lieutenant Commander Elder.”
“Most of the time I get called Captain, Captain. However, with you and Captain Mozart aboard, that could cause confusion. Come to my day cabin and we can talk in private.”
Once in Elder’s Day Cabin, with the flat picture of Constance prominently in place, Elder motioned to the dispenser and said, “Grab what you want. This is a wardroom, so we can be ourselves and not go the formal route, although as I remember, you have always gone formal even when not required.”
Standing at the dispenser, :That is affirmative. My upbringing and the directions I chose upon entering the Navy has engrained such with me so that becoming relaxed to the point of ease in the presence of others is challenging. Even with my wife and children.”
“Ah yes. I am sorry I missed your wedding, my assignment to the BALKANS prevented it. Maybe you heard about it.”
Taking a glass of red wine and a bowl of ice cream to a seat, Quinn actually chuckled. “Yes, the rebellion of a senior Captain and the destruction of a Class-G Dreadnought did become extensively known. As was your participation in the incident. There is a new class of Dreadnoughts in the prototype stages and these may be named after mountain ranges, so the BALKANS may fly again.” Quinn did not mention that the two of them had discussed the incident while instructors at the Academy, he knew Elder was proud of what he had done during the incident.
Getting his salami and mayonnaise on marbled rye sandwich and a beer, Elder snorted. “I doubt that, too much confusion over what name belongs to what class. My understanding is that the Navy will name the new Dreadnoughts with a different class name, what it will be I can’t guess and wait for a while until they start naming anything after mountain ranges again.”
Nodding his head in that cocked manner of his, that triggered a memory of their times together in the JACOTOT and the Academy, Quinn eased back into the chair and said, :You may have deduced this correctly, neither of us is elevated enough in the chain of command so that such knowledge would be available to us on a routine basis.”
“Oh come on Quinn. You have an intelligence network just like every other senior officer. So many of your family is in the Navy that you have a built-in network. But, I am willing to bet that you have an extensive network outside your family since family is too obvious.”
“And why would I have such a network?”
“During my probationary period, after one of the terrorist incidents that resulted in a formal hearing, my lawyer said that all officers create such a network because this gives them more information for the inevitable political warfare amongst ambitious officers. I have an extensive network among the various bases and ships where I served as well as bases and ships where my contacts were reassigned to. I just do not have the siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and so forth that you have. Isn’t the present Grand Admiral a relative of yours?”
“By marriage, he is the brother-in-law of my mother’s aunt.”
“See? If you asked him nicely, you could get some nice data on such things like what a new class of Dreadnought would be named.”
:It was from him that I ascertained that the new class is in the prototype stage. It would be the G000143 series.”
“And why would the G000143 series be more likely to get built that he previous designs that were to replace the G000134 series?”
“This project has actually reached the prototype construction stage. Or rather, prototype construction has commenced but is still in the earliest phases. It commenced late last year.”
“Well, since we have yet to meet aliens and the fighting we do amongst ourselves rarely reaches the level of Dreadnought-to-Dreadnought combat, what improvements the new class has are theoretical rather than practical.”
“Dreadnoughts have devastated rebellious duchies in the past and you have experience with Dreadnought-to-Dreadnought fighting. There is little experience to provide guidance but there is enough to justify the new class.”
Nodding to himself, and saying, almost to himself, “The BALKANS, my first ship out of the Academy. Destroyed by her two sister-ships in the Section. If there had not been a telepath aboard, I doubt any of us would have been rescued. The Empire needs telepaths or some form of long-range faster-than-light communications or else sheer size is going to destroy it.”
“It is unfortunate that telepaths are still extremely scarce in the Empire. Presently the FTL communication are too shot-ranged. Useful for in-system communications but impractical otherwise.”
“Yeah, but the downside of interstellar communications is bureaucracy. I still remember what Sous-Lieutenant Palmer, the first telepath I ever knew, said. Increased communications increases control. As it stands now, the Empire cannot control, in detail, what happens in any kingdom or duchy except within maybe two Jumps. Local control still exists. Midshipman Mitchell, later King Mitchell, used to talk about how all politics is local. Moreover, he was right, who cares about Imperial politics? At best, most people focus on their county and rarely anything higher.”
“I concern myself about Imperial politics and so does the larger portion of my family.”
“Yeah Quinn, but you are you and your family is your family. Your family is the oddball. Among those who do not have a professional reason to do so, how many care? I care because I do not like the idea of interstellar war destroying planets wholesale. The human race could get wiped out.”
“Yet it is a truth that the Empire has destroyed how many duchies? Moreover, the Federation and the soon-to-be Imperial Fleet destroyed how many during the War of Unification? How many mutinies, revolts, and other assorted war-like actions taken against the Empire that result in military action? You fear interstellar war but mayhap we have been in an interstellar war since the founding of the Empire.”
“I know of seven duchies destroyed for successful rebellion. Mutinies? I have no idea of the total, just the three serious ones that happened around me. Terrorist actions? Too many to count. Nevertheless, society continues and prospers. And my family will live for better times.” Elder rubbed his oversized nose and frowned at the death toll implied in what he had just said.
“Of the eleven of us who were on the JACOTOT together, how many are still alive? The Imperial Navy and Imperial Marines take what percentage of the youth of the Empire each year, and how many die each year?”
“I don’t know the answer and neither do you, unless you have inside information from your family connections Quinn.”
“I have such information, but only in general terms. The numbers are enormous although, relative to the entire population, insignificant. Would interstellar war be worse? I have no data upon which to make a comparison; however, in answer my own question, of the eleven of us aboard the JACOTOT, four are dead. So far, to my mind, the benefits of the Empire outweigh the drawbacks.”
“Four dead? I know of only three: Irving, Father Lester, and Ostrom. Who is the other one?”
“Lieutenant Commander Corbett perished three Imperial months ago. She was investigating a potential pirate operation and became a casualty in a sting operation by the ISA.”
“Damn it. All right, I know I am prejudiced against the ISA because of my experiences with them but does the Emperor pay any attention wo what the ISA does?”
“Emperor Caroline, according to what my family knows about her, does pay a great deal of attention to the Imperial Services Agency. She knows that they are fanatics for the Empire and as such can go to unwarranted extremes.”
“Well, that one who tried to frame me back at the Academy was not acting as an Imperial fanatic but a woman in love. The other three bad experiences were with fanatics who would have killed me just on the off chance that it would advance their investigation. And for all that they do, rebellions and terrorism still flourish.”
“However, we can never discern to what extent the condition of the Empire would be worse without the efforts of the ISA.”
“No Quinn, we cannot, I agree. Nevertheless, given my experiences with the ISA, I do not like their methods. Both Naval Police and Naval Intelligence are effective without using the techniques of the ISA.”
“That is true. However, discussing the ISA and the number of people killed each year does not solve the enigma with the colony ship and the various colonists aboard. I read the data acquired by your people and, like you, I question the intransigence of the Federation colonists. Is there any data not in your reports that might shed some clarity on this?”
“No, none. Unless my people learned something in the last two hours or so. Staying aboard that ship is a dead end. System losses will doom them, even if they can keep the equipment running. They will need outside input of food and other material to balance out the losses from waste. Nothing can be one hundred percent recycled. They can only have survived this long, regardless of how they got here – one Jump or several – because, as a generation ship, they had more supplies than could easily be used up.”
“Very well. What we have established is that a group of communists fleeing during the late UN or early Federation period, made contact with a Federation colony and for some reason the two joined and continued fleeing but now with Jump Drive. There are no records of the communist colony ship and we can expect none given that so many records of that era were destroyed during the Colonial Revolt and the War of Unification. In addition, we do not know the name of the Federation colony since there were so many colonies destroyed during the Colonial Revolt and the War of Unification. Even the knowledge that the colony had the capability to build space ships, thus the installation of the Jump Drive, does not help with the identification. The descendants of the communists surrendered easily but the descendants of the Federation colonists fought hard against capture and are resisting all efforts to integrate with the Empire. Is that summation essentially correct?”
“Yes Quinn, so the questions are: 1) Why did the two groups join, 2) Why did they start fighting so late, 3) Why are the former Federation colonists determined to not get rescued? And, as part of number two, now that I think of it, is why has the fighting been so nonviolent? According to the records, which I admit are spotty on deaths, very few on either side have ever died in combat. The Federation descendants have weapons that would allow them to crush the Soviets if they wanted to, but they do not. And, there seems to be a lot of co-operation between them in terms of mates, food exchanges, energy delivery and so forth. Sorry Quinn, I just thought of these. I’ll have to get my people working on those questions if they aren’t already.”
“It is to be expected that further questions would arise upon contemplation of the issue. You have raised questions that pose serious problems and I question if the answers will be readily available. What is the remaining time on your scheduled survey?”
“Four Imperial months, two more systems scheduled. That has obviously gone to the mules.”
“Very well, I would suggest that you concentrate on this system until you have been relieved or you can no longer support continuing here.”
“I already decided that. If I leave the colonists here, they could fire up the engines, go elsewhere, and stay hidden for who knows how long. I would be the first Captain in Second Fleet to lose a Lost Colony once found. I would be a laughingstock. I’s never get promoted and I am due for Commander in four months when I return to base.”
“You could retain necessary personnel aboard your ship so that they cannot conduct operations aboard theirs. That would keep them at their present location.”
“Sure, that might work if I knew exactly who was necessary but I don’t. I know some of them, but the skills may be scattered further than I presently know.”
“I realize that possibility, however, you have not considered that during your travel from the outer system to this locale, these colonists had the ability to start their engines and escape before you arrived at this location.”
“No, they didn’t have that chance. Remember, we knew they were here long before they knew we were here. If they had tried to flee, we would have seen them and followed them. And, we have better acceleration and better sensors. The onkly way that they could lose us is if they get up to Jump Speed and just as they Jump, twist their helm so that they are on a random course. However, that works only if they hit upon the proper course and speed for a nearby system. There are not that many within four parsecs and we would have a clear idea of where they went. With our training, we would recover from Jump disorientation before they would. We would be on top of them and boarding before they could recover and try again.”
“It has been an excessive length of time, apparently, since I had to consider chasing another vessel. I have not dealt with pirates in any large amount so the necessity has not come into my consideration with any strength. You are correct, especially since the technology of the colonist’s ship is pre-Imperial, two hundred years out of date or thereabouts.”
“Yeah, I have sent a message torpedo to Section request that they reassign the systems my orders were to investigate to other ships. It may have to go to Squadron before there are any free ships but the request has gone forward. I cannot figure out these colonists and I do not want to leave until I have. There is something strange here, a lot of strange things and I don’t want to wonder for the rest of my life what the answers are.”
“Once the answers are determined, you will be able to obtain that information with a simple investigation.”
“Yeah, and I am good at finding things out. However, even I would have trouble finding out the answers if, as I suspect, the answers are classified to one of the higher classifications. You would have a better chance asking one of your relatives . I do not have the family connections; all of my relatives in the Navy are younger and of lower ranks than I am. Many of my younger cousins of various removes made it to the Academy in the last few years. However, I digress. I am here and until I get orders to leave, I am going to study this puzzle, and with some luck, solve it.”
“Very well. Since my mission was to make diplomatic contact with aliens and there are none here, I will return to Second Fleet Headquarters. Have you any messages I can deliver to your family?”
“Constance and the younger children are visiting Krasgia and should be there until I return to base. The four older children are away in the Navy. I seem to have started a family tradition in staying in for a career. The Elder family may be just as important to the Navy as the Quinn family in a hundred years or so. Or maybe it is just my children and the tradition won’t continue.”
“Are any at the Academy? I will there to lecture a seminar on a specific mission I performed and its consequences to the Empire. The mission being my attack on a pirate base without anything other than a Class-I Cruiser and a few Class-M Light Scouts. Moreover, given that I was successful, how I was able to succeed at the task. It was that mission that earned me the promotion to Captain.”
“You remember Meldrick, don’t you? The one that was always the schoolyard leader? He graduates in about six months. Going to be a Marine from his last message. Lieutenant Major Hartz has expressed an interest in having Meldrick assigned to his unit.”
From there the conversation drifted into personal reminisces and swapping of stories about family and mutual friends for another two hours. Finally, Quinn had to leave and get his business done. As he left, he apologized to Elder for his rude behavior when he had first arrived. Elder had wondered when that would happen, he knew Quinn to be too honorable to not apologize and Elder was shocked at how many words, and long words at that, that Quinn used in his apology. Elder accepted the apology, needing only an “Of course I accept your apology. I understand what you were going through. There is nothing hard between us.”
Once Quinn and his people were on their way back to the HINDO and the diplomatic team were arriving on the MACALPIN in preparation for their work on the colony ship, Elder checked in with his people who were trying hard to understand why the descendants of the Federation colonists were resisting so hard the efforts to make them Imperial subjects. He did check in with the history section and asked about the names of known generation ships and learned that there was no pattern to the naming of the ship; it was just what the Captain or sponsor decided. Given that, Elder decided to keep the name VOLGA since that was probably the original name.
When the HINDO arrived to orbit the generation ship, most of its crew had recovered from Jump Sickness. Most, but not all. Quinn had recovered and returned to duty but Grand Herald MacDermot had not. The Grand Herald was in confinement in Sick Bay under the care of the specialist medical crew, those trained to deal with Jump Sickness. His assistant, Master Herald Franklin Sander Bono Gomer Killea, would represent the Grand Herald.
During the two days after the arrival of the HINDO, in order to allow the people from the HINDO to set themselves on the MACALPIN’s clock, a crew shuttled over to the MACALPIN. Elder held a conference in his conference room since the material on the generation ship was more accessible there.
His conference room was crowded but not as badly as when he decided to make the trip to contact the Soviets. Now, there were just the bare minimum needed to discuss the issue of the Lost Colonists. Elder was at the head of the table, of course, with Quinn and Master Herald Killea flanking him since they were the expedition leaders from Second Fleet Headquarters. Captain Mozart sat next to Captain Quinn. Various other members of the expedition from Second Fleet Headquarters were mixed in with various members of the MACALPIN crew to finish out the seating.
Captain Quinn, family connections were doing him well since he was three full ranks ahead of Elder, sat straight and tall. He was just as tall, just under two meters, and swarthy as before, and even more handsome perhaps. Elder had wanted to have a private chat in order to catch up with Quinn but there had not been a chance yet. Captain Mozart was shorter than Quinn but still above average, and almost fat. Not as heavy as someone from Concar but his body was well padded. He was pale, almost to the point of being albino, with ice blue eyes that seemed to look at one’s soul without effort. Master Herald Killea was about the same height as Quinn, but where Quinn showed drive and determination, the Master Herald showed a personality that was not there. Everything about the man, his brown hair and brown eyes and his lean physique, seemed to be trying to hide, even when the Master Herald was speaking. The five others from the HINDO were there to support those three, so Elder did not pay attention to them, at least not yet. His own crew he knew.
Elder stood up to signal the start of the meeting. “The colony ship VOLGA presents a mystery, indeed several mysteries, to us. The ship is a multi-generation ship probably built during the late UN or early Federation period. From the records of part of the crew, the Soviet side, the ship travelled for about one hundred years before encountering a Federation colony with a shipyard. The Soviet records do not name this colony and the records of the colonists, the other side in the continuing war between the two sides, are blank on what Federation colony they came from as well. From the timing, the encounter happened during the Colonial Revolt or the War of Unification. Several colonies were destroyed during this time so that is no help in identifying the colony. My Navigator computed the area where the VOLGA could have reached after flying one hundred years, and that is no help either since several destroyed colonies were in that sphere. Both sides record that equipment was added to the VOLGA, ostensibly to improve engine performance but in reality to add a James Drive. From the Soviet records, the VOLGA made a single Jump and settled knot orbit here. Unless those records are false, that had to be a Misjump since a single Jump could cover a maximum of four parsecs, far short of the distance to get here. The Federation colonists have records showing multiple Jumps but no specific number. My Navigator estimates that, depending upon the starting system, it would have taken between eleven and fifteen Jumps to get here. Therefore, there is the mystery of what Federation colony the Soviets met and kidnapped.
“The real mysteries start once the VOLGA entered orbit around this planet. The records do not indicate fighting until then. The first mention of fighting is after a meeting between the Captain of the VOLGA and the Secretary of the Soviet of Workers and Colonists where the Captain gave an unknown book to the Secretary. Fighting has continued at a very low level since then.
“We, our Marines, took control of the Soviets with ease once I made the decision to do so. The Federation colonists however, were another matter. We captured a few colonists and explained the situation to them. We then sent them to their leaders as an embassy expecting that the colonists would be glad that the fighting was over. The message clearly stated that we were the successors to the Federation and I expected that this would give us some legitimacy. It did not. The fighting has been hard and lethal. The present Captain of the VOLGA, which they call the LIBERTY, died during the last battle, a victim of friendly fire since we used stunners exclusively.
“Both sets of records are incompletely studied and both seem to rely on unwritten assumptions. Whatever the book given the Soviets was, we can find no other reference to it and the library records do not show a missing book. Why the fighting only started after the gift of the book and why no effort has ever been made to stop the fighting is another mystery. Why no effort has ever been made to colonize the planet the VOLGA orbits is another.
“That is the extent of our knowledge as of this morning. Any questions?”
Captain Mozart cleared his throat, “Lieutenant Commander Elder, how many people inhabit this multi-generation ship?”
“In total, about twenty thousand Captain. That is men, women and children. If the ship went for a hundred years before reaching the Federation colony, the number then should have been close to double that on the Soviet side, depending on the original size of the number of people fleeing the Federation, and most Federation colonies started out with a population of between fifty and a hundred thousand people. With facilities for building space ships, the Federation colony would have tended towards the upper end of those limits. Like the Empire, the Federation was intent on establishing as many colonies as it could.”
“So, there should be perhaps a couple of million people on this ship. What facilities are present to dispose of corpses, Lieutenant Commander?”
“Captain Mozart, nothing special. They place the bodies with the rest of the organic material for recycling. Whatever religious beliefs the Federation colonists started out with are gone now. Every person is an atheist, more from a lack of knowing anything else rather than a deliberate decision or childhood training. There is nothing special about human bodies in their belief system, such as it is. They have no funeral services, nothing to remember a person once dead. They seem to deliberately erase their past.”
“I believe, Lieutenant Commander, that you mentioned that the colonists had resisted rescue. Please elaborate.”
“Captain Mozart, we expected that the Soviets would resist us and planned for it. Thus, we were able to capture all of them in a short time, just minutes. Once we secured them, we captured five Federation colonists and sent those persons to the Captain with the information that we were the replacement government for the Federation. We moved forward confidently, expecting no resistance. The colonists fired on the first Marines that they saw with slug pistols. The range of those pistols is greater than the range of our stunners but they lacked enough power to penetrate our Combat Suits. Thinking that the Captain did not believe what we had told him, we captured another person and gave that person documents in Federation English to, hopefully, convince the Captain that we are who we said we were and that he should surrender to us. We found that person, bound and executed, the next day. The colonists upgraded their slug throwers to rifles that could penetrate our Combat Suits but would only cause minor wounds unless they hit us directly in the faceplate. However, they concentrated on firing at the center of body mass and rarely fired at the head. Once we captured all the colonists, they still engaged in passive resistance, refusing to speak with us and so forth. Examining their historical records has shown no reason for their resistance. The only interesting item is that there was no conflict between the colonists and the Soviets until the colonists gave the Soviets a certain, unnamed, book. The fighting started right after that. The ship was already in orbit around this planet at that time and, so far, we have found no reason to explain why the colonists have not used this planet either as a living space or for its resources. I wish I had better news but both sides resist all efforts to gather information from them; the Soviets are less willing so but still are resisting. We are searching for more records in the hopes that further documents will answer our questions.”
“Lieutenant Commander Elder, what fragment of your crew have you positioned aboard the other vessel? Is there any prospect that those presently captive might successfully revert to their previous status?”
Elder almost smiled at Quinn’s speech habits. Even after all these years, Elder remembered first hearing Quinn’s stilted speech back aboard the JACOTOT.
“Captain Quinn, Captain Major Major believes that the captives are secure and that he has sufficient Marines to prevent any breakout. The Marines and the Na y, in total, are about one third of my crew. Mostly from the Marine Battalion. Most of them are searching for further documents but several Marines are standing guard over the captives and at various points throughout the ship. With our sensors, the captives could not surprise any of the guards, especially if the Marines had time to send a warning about a breakout. With the captives unarmed and unarmored, both the Battalion Commander and I believe we have an unassailable advantage. Even if the captives escape, and that is extremely unlikely, our weapons and armor will prevent them from doing too much.”
Lieutenant Commander Elder, I foresee that your conviction that the captives are secure might be hyperbolic.”
“Huh? Captain Quinn, I have not been around anyone that uses language as you do for years. Please explain hyperbolic.”
Quinn looked hurt. It seemed that he was used to people understanding his stilted speech patterns. If Elder was going to be around him for very long, a dictionary would have to be at hand until Elder was familiar with Quinn’s speech pattern.
“Lieutenant Commander Elder, hyperbolic has a definition of exaggerated.”
“Thank you Captain Quinn, we haven’t spoken for years so I am out of the habit of understanding you. However, the captives are guarded and every weapon we could find, either taken in combat or from an armory, is presently aboard the MACALPIN. The captives might swarm a guard or two and secure our weapons but you know the capabilities of the Combat Suit. A Marine in a Combat Suit could fight and defeat a dozen unarmed individuals at any one time. Even if they swarmed the Marine and threw him to the deck, the Marine could still fight effectively. Moreover, no Marine guarding the captives is alone, there is always at least two others within sensor range. Even if the captives were able to take weapons from some Marines, our Combat Suits are proof against the weapons the guards have. Unarmored individuals are not. Please explain something that the Battalion Commander or I have overlooked.”
“Very well, you have designed your guarding system sufficiently Lieutenant Commander Elder. As you pointed out, we have not served on the same ship jointly since the JACOTOT and have not been together in any sense since we were both instructors at the Academy. I am unfamiliar with your level of tactical proficiency and the Captain Major is totally unfamiliar to me. I was merely calming my mind.”
“Well Captain Quinn, I would welcome any suggestions from you or your Marines on improving my setup over there but I believe we have the situation in hand. Why the Federation colonists are more resistant to rescue than the Soviets are is the big question and right now I have no answers nor any clue as to how to get answers except by interrogation and searching their databanks.”
“Lieutenant Commander Elder, you have made no progress in reaching the colonists diplomatically?” Master Herald Killea spoke with a soft voice. Elder could barely understand him, his voice was so soft.
“Master Herald, it is very hard to have diplomatic relations with someone who does not speak with you. The only time either set of colonists speak with any Imperial is if they have to. You could ask one of them the time and just get a blank stare in response. Maybe you or some of your staff have experience in dealing with this sort of situation?”
“Unfortunately no, Lieutenant Commander. That sort of knowledge is more applicable to psychologists working with prisoners and the mentally ill. We have techniques that might work but no experience to tell if those techniques will work in this sort of situation.”
“Well, give it a try Master Herald. If these people are going to become functional subjects of the Empire, then we need to be able to communicate with them. We cannot just abandon the adults and raise the children; at least, I would not recommend doing that. Would it be better for your people to deal with them over there in a large group or over here in small groups?”
“I think small groups would be better Lieutenant Commander, but over there so that there is no suggestion that we are taking people off to be killed. Training helmets would not help as the techniques are not fact based.”
“I will alert the Captain Major since he is in charge over there. How many of your staff will be doing this Master Herald?”
“Probably most of those not still recovering from Jump Sickness Lieutenant Commander. We will need a dozen rooms for a start, with space for probably thirty colonists and three of my staff each. With a population of about twenty thousand or so, we ill not be able to reach very many; but we can, I hope, get a start. Captain Mozart, would you send a message torpedo off to Second Fleet and ask for a full crew of teachers, psychologists and so forth?”
Captain Mozart nodded. Quinn nodded in that cocked nod of his and said, “Master Herald, while this mission is concluded as a First Contact situation, there are particular and well-established procedures for integrating a Lost Colony into the Empire. Second Fleet will send the appropriate specialists and these colonists should be fully integrated into the Empire within two Imperial Years.”
Captain Mozart continued to nod and said, “Those were the specialists I was planning on sending for with the message torpedo anyway. Teachers and so forth will follow the initial specialists. As Captain Quinn said, the Navy has well established procedures for this type of situation. Second Fleet has found over a hundred Lost Colonies, either all records of them were lost, or their ancestors were exiled or for whatever reason, their ancestors left the Federation or the Empire in hopes of never being discovered. Thankfully, the practice of exile has ended so no new Lost Colonies are being created.”
“Be that as it may Captain, we have to deal with these people now. Why were the Soviets able to take over a Federation colony with seeming ease? Why are the descendants of those Federation colonists so unwilling to accept the situation of our taking over and why do they continue with passive resistance? I would like to have some answers to these before anyone else gets here. By the way Captain Quinn, are there any follow-up expeditions coming from Second Fleet?”
“Lieutenant Commander Elder, the determination at Headquarters Second Fleet was that this expedition would instigate a relationship with the aliens and inform Second Fleet of any follow-up requirements.”
“So the message torpedo that Captain Mozart will be sending will settle the situation at Second Fleet. Or will you be sending it Captain Quinn since you are the mission leader?”
“Lieutenant Commander Elder, the authorization for the torpedo will be mine.”
“Yeah Captain, that makes sense. Master Herald, how soon can your people, and I will refer to them as your people until the Grand Herald recovers from his Jump Sickness, get started? As far as I am concerned, until then you are in command of the diplomatic personnel. Am I clear?”
“Very clear Lieutenant Commander. I have been operating as Chief of Mission for the last few days anyway.”
:Good. This meeting is concluded. Let’s get to work turning these colonists into Imperial subjects.”
The people started getting up and moving away.
“Captain, a message from the HINDO for the Master Herald.”
“Patch it through to here, the Master Herald is with me.”
“Master Herald Killea, Commander Tully here. I am required to inform you that the Grand Herald has died from his Jump Sickness. The diplomatic side of the mission is now yours.”
“Thank you Richard, uh, Commander Tully. Please place the corpse in stasis for now. I have no idea when we will be returning to base. Master Herald Killea out.”
Elder had a question on his face but did not ask it.
“I’m sorry Lieutenant Commander, that wasn’t bad manners really. Commander Tully is my brother-in-law, married to my youngest sister. There is a gap of twenty-five years between her and me.”
“I have no problem with that Master Herald. One should always cherish family ties when you can. Are many of your relatives in the Navy?”
“No, most are civil service. Captain Quinn as the largest percentage of family members in Naval service that I know of.”
Seeing Quinn standing off to one side, obviously waiting, Elder decided to wrap the conversation up. “Master Herald, right now the biggest question I have is why the Federation colonists are resisting rescue. In addition, and closely related to that, and probably the cause of it, is why the fighting between the two sides did not start until the Federation colonists gave an unknown book to the Soviets. Please have your people gather that information if you can. Something is weird here, and we should know the reason before too many agencies get involved.”
“Yes Lieutenant Commander, that does seem weird. No Lost Colony that I ever heard of resisted inclusion once they realized that they had no other option. These Federation people seem determined to avoid rescue even though they can see the hopelessness of their situation. I’ll get my people on it.” The Master Herald walked off.