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.