Surprisingly, or perhaps not, information on telepathy was classified beyond Elder’s clearance. Not all of it, there were various popular pieces, and there was some published scientific papers, but it was scant. From what Elder could tell, the first telepath happened thirty-three years ago and was a criminal specializing in blackmail. Other telepaths showed up quickly and were scattered around the Empire. However, the numbers were small, Elder guessed that there probably was not over ten thousand in the Imperial population of ten trillion. Not even enough to have one per duchy much less one per ship and base in the Imperial Navy. Elder could not tell if telepathy was inheritable or if the numbers were increasing nor could he tell much about the ability. Ensign Palmer had told him more than he had learned from all the material in the official database.
Wondering about telepathy got him wondering about other aspects of the Imperial Navy by a long and twisted chain of thought. Yes, he had taken the required courses in the Academy and he had taken a few extra in his secondary levels but now he began wondering about how the Navy operated. Not how it was supposed to operate but the reality as opposed to the theory.
The rest of the patrol went smoothly. Elder interacted with the Captain on two other occasions due to the Captain moving about the ship on official inspections but there were no other incidents of note. Elder remembered that Captain Mizutani had said he could top Elder’s murder trial, so Elder did a bit more investigating of the Captain’s past career and was astounded. Commander, as he then was, Mizutani had been convicted of murder but the conviction had been overturned almost immediately due to procedural errors In addition, once Commander Mizutani’s conviction had been published, someone else began bragging that he had framed a navy officer for the murder. That person had been caught, and had confessed to the murder Commander Mizutani’s conviction was in the records but voided.
Once back at base, the BALKANS began its cycle of repairs again. Elder met with his daughter for the first time at the landing port, along with dozens of other navy men and women meeting loved ones again, or as Elder, for the first time Little Janice looked much like her mother to Elder, he could see none of the angles and planes of his face and her eyes were edged y normal eyebrows. Of course, babies had a fairly generic look about them, but Elder was glad for his daughter Growing up ugly was something he had no desire for her to be forced into.
Once home, Constance had a bit of a surprise for him. “Your father was here just a few weeks ago. He has bought just over 30,000 hectares of farmland back home. He is expanding into exporting mushrooms. He has a Navy contract to supply the base. Commodore Gorrell had some last time your father was here, and loved them. If enough officers like them, your family business may expand and become multi-sector.”
Elder sat on the sofa and said, “Krasgian mushrooms are popular with other planets?” Still holding Janice, who was asleep in his arms, he continued, “But most people on Krasgia don’t like them!”
Constance sat next to Elder, “Which is why your father wants to export them. Think about it, if only a small percent on each planet like Krasgian mushrooms, that is still millions of people. By being the first, your father expects to dominate the market before the big multi-sector companies try to take the market away from him.”
“But how did the Commodore find out about them?”
“Remember I mentioned that I took your father to the Junior Officers’ Club? Commodore Gorrell was doing a visit and liked the smell so he tried some. One of the cooks has a wife, who I am friendly with, in the Recreation Center. We both teach classes there. I got her to get her husband to cook them for your father.”
Just then, there was the doorbell. Constance and Elder looked at each other and said in unison, “Not another new widow.”
Elder went to the door, carrying Janice since he wanted to be with his firstborn daughter as much as he could having missed her life so far. She did not wake up while he walked to the door.
Standing at the door, in the formal dress uniform of the Imperial Navy, was an officer. Elder almost dropped Janice when he saw the three silver stars running up the sleeve. Then again as he saw the several rows of ribbons on the chest and yet again as he recognized the face of Commodore Gorrell. Commodore Gorrell had a pleasant smile on his craggy face as he looked down on Elder – he had to look down since he was close to a meter taller than the Midshipman was. Elder stammered, “Go, go, good evening sir”
“Midshipman Elder, I realize that it is unusual for the Base Commander to visit a Midshipman from one of the assigned ships, but this is an unofficial visit. I cannot stay long, I have a reception to attend in an hour. May I come in?”
Constance save Elder just then, “Welcome to our home Commodore. Please enter have refreshments.” She took Janice from Elder with deft smoothness
Once in the parlor with coffee, and Janice in her crib, Commodore Gorrell said, “Midshipman Elder, Mrs. Elder, this is a bit unusual for someone of my position to be here so I will explain. Midshipman Elder, your father has procured a contract to supply this base with a certain amount of Krasgian mushrooms every year I am responsible for that contract and I am passing the word among my friends that your father is willing to supply Krasgian mushrooms to the various bases in the region. When I smelled those mushrooms that your father was having, it brought back fond memories. I was stationed on Krasgia a few decades ago, probably before you were born, and grew to like them. Once I transferred, I forgot about the as just another treat from a previous planet. If I ever thought about it, I probably did not expect them to travel well. After all, if they did, someone would be exporting them. Smelling them in the Junior Officers’ Club got me thinking. Obviously they do travel well. This is an opportunity that has been missed for decades. I spoke with your father and got him the contract. In a couple of years I will retire from the Navy, I decided that months ago, and I will be your father’s partner in the export of Krasgian mushrooms and anything else Krasgia can export to a profitable market. Therefore, I thought it best to begin to know the family of my future partner. I cannot meet your relatives on Krasgia yet, but I can meet you since you are here.” Seeing the worried look on Elder’s face, the Commodore went on, “Don’t worry Midshipman Elder. Since I am not in your chain of command, I am not stepping over any bounds here. I cannot spend a lot of time with you, fraternizing, but there is no way that I can be prevented fro having contact, even commercial contact, with your family. If I could not have contact with the families of anyone in Imperial service, I could have no life outside my office at all. You are Mobile Forces, and I am Base Forces, which separates us enough so that I can interact with your father, If I wanted to do anything to you, good or ad, I’d have to go through your Captain, or more likely your Flotilla OIC and they would fight me regardless because they would see that,,,, and rightly so, as encroaching upon their jurisdiction.”
Constance spoke up, “But Commodore, isn’t there some regulation against a meeting like this just because of the rank difference?”
“Good point Mrs. Elder, and there is and there isn’t. Since the BALKANS is presently in space dock, you sort of fall into my chain of command. This is, again, a yes and no situation. Since I am allowed to investigate and become familiar with all the personnel in my command, not that it is possible mind you, I am allowed to familiarize myself with you and your capabilities. I do anything more than that and your Captain has to get involved. SO, do not worry Midshipman, you will not get a court-martial out of this. So, sit back and tell me about your family.”
So Elder told the Commodore what he knew of his family. Commodore Gorrell listened intently and when Elder was done, asked a few questions. He excused himself and left once this was over, thanking Constance for the coffee. Elder worried about the situation and went to his data terminal and began looking up the regulations that might apply to the incident.