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.