Lieutenant Commander Jesip Dwight Roger Allen Elder, Imperial Navy Serial Number B37AQ8473954AA, officer commanding – for six Imperial weeks out of the eleven week Imperial month – K00092C-0065, one of the King Class of the Class-K Scout Cruisers, settled back into the easy chair in his cabin and relaxed. His small size, he was only 1356cm tall and only weighed 53Kg at one Standard Gravity, meant he was lost in the chair. His forty-fifth birthday was coming up next week and he had no idea if the crew was planning something for their new Captain or not. Of course, back on Krasgia where they were visiting relatives, Constance and the children would not be celebrating for another seven days after the ship celebration, the difference happening because of the slippage between the Imperial Calendar, which the ship was on, and the local calendar on Krasgia.
Unlike most officers in the Imperial Navy, Elder did not like the present Emperor, Caroline, all that much. He rather preferred her father Anton. From all he had learned in his schooling, Anton had really solidified the Empire and given it the strong institutions that ran it now and Caroline didn’t seem to be as strong as her father was. Moreover, he was the last of the Calegari dynasty and Caroline had married a Devaney starting a new dynasty. Nevertheless, she had been on the throne for all his life and should be retiring soon to give the throne over to her son, Anton II.
It was, perhaps, a shame that hereditary nobility ruled the Empire but it had kept the peace, more or less, now for one hundred ninety five years. Baring the occasional rebellion or terrorist activity of course, but there had been no interstellar war since the War of Unification which had destroyed so many planetary populations and almost destroyed Earth. Yes, the Empire had its worth.
Elder rubbed his fingers over the ship’s emblem, gold for the Captain instead of silver for the crew, on the right chest of his uniform jumpsuit with its gold stripe for Lieutenant Commander along the cuff the only other break in its bleak dark blue severity. He wondered as he did so, if his ship, his first command, would ever have to fight in a war. Pirates existed, but those were local fights, and occasionally a Duchy rebelled, and terrorists were everywhere, but those were local fights not a war. It seemed to Elder that almost two hundred years without a real war was pushing someone’s luck. Maybe someone would find aliens and they would have to be fought. No one had found aliens yet; only Lost Colonies and the Empire had absorbed them without too much bloodshed. Enough musing, it was time to go to bed, tomorrow looked to be a long day since they had to start investigating this system.
Glancing at the old-fashioned mirror secured to the bulkhead as he prepared to sleep, Elder grimaced as he always did at the not-handsome (to be generous) face that he wore framed by hair that was so black it was almost blue. The nose was more than large enough for someone twenty centimeters taller and the eyebrows nearly met at the center of his forehead and then faded away towards the edges of wide-set eyes that might have been considered a piercing grey in someone with a more handsome, less angular, and bony face.
It was the same every time; he always wondered why Constance had married him. Someday, perhaps, he would be worthy of her. However, for now, the long suppressed insecurities came forth. He was competent, he knew that, he had seen it proved too many times over the course of his Navy career but the shadows always came back standing in front of the mirror. Elder was ugly and small and out of more than the social disapproval for it he would never consider plastic surgery to be more handsome – would Constance leave him if he did have plastic surgery, that was the fear. However, as always, at the end of his musings, he gave thanks that his children resembled Constance more than they did him.
The next sis weeks were peaceful. Even the birthday party was placid and almost sedate. so sedate that not even one incident could possibly be entered into the log as rowdy.
As the data from the probes came in, the MACALPIN began its journey inwards to take a closer look at the inner planets, ignoring the asteroid belt for now, that would be for a follow-up survey. The inhabitable planet would be among the inner planets if one existed and if it did exist, it would need more than a casual look. The crew began preparing for the workload once they found one.
Events, however, dictated otherwise.