The Ambassador

“The Ambassador” is a science fiction series (currently 5 books ~180,000 words, mostly dialog) which follows Micha Lawrence, an older woman ready to retire from her service as a First Contact Ambassador for the Central Alliance, through a series of missions, adventures, and clever escapes. The Ambassador has studied the Lost Arts of the Ancients, speaks multiple languages, and keeps a few secrets.

My stories are more about character, understanding, clever solutions, and secrets than blasters and ray guns. They do have space ships and fancy flying and lot’s of folks from other planets. Science and languages play a key role. So do the internal martial arts, their underlying principles and philosophies.

Chapter 1: Departure Day

The wind will tell it’s story.
Whether you are listening or not.
Where do you want to go, it whispers.
Who are you? it asks.

Getting Ready  Ambassador’s Apartment on Dagon

Setting Up  Space Station Promenade, Small Conference Room

Welcome Space Station Departure Hall, Walkways

New Settings  Ambassador’s  Quarters on the Magellan, Hallways

Start Here Diplomatic Briefing Room on the Magellan

Getting Ready                                                                               Ambassador’s  apartment on Dagon

She turned over in bed for the fourth time. It wasn’t working. She couldn’t get back to sleep.

What time is it? she thought as she looked for the clock. Almost 3. Might as well get up and make coffee, she thought again. No one to hear her if she’d spoken aloud. She liked being alone and was comfortable with her thoughts. Considering what they were preparing to do, she appreciated having some quiet time.

She sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. Sitting there for a minute, she thought about all the other times she’d gotten up about the same time. Travel was like that. It wasn’t as easy to get up as it used to be. She was getting older. Retirement was starting to look better and better. Leave this work to someone younger. Stay home here on Dagon, putter in the garden, teach a little. There were some who showed promise among the candidates on Ras 2 this year. Maybe she’d visit after she got back.

Coffee was ready. It was the one thing that she had decided to keep. So many other things she’d had to give up over the years. This one, this small thing, she wanted to keep. It wasn’t always the best, but she managed. Today, she had an old-style drip coffee maker, complete with filters and ground coffee. It smelled wonderful! Fresh-brewed and just right, not too strong, not too weak. She poured a cup, walked over to the window, blew across the top of the cup and took a sip.

There was a light chime and the comm terminal lit up. She reached over switched it to audio only.

“Good Morning, Ambassador.”

“Good Morning, N’amani” she replied, smiling to herself. “I’m up. Coffee in hand. Everything is packed. I’ll be ready in 30 minutes.” She was happy with his reminder. She knew he still had quite a bit to get done before they left. It was impressive that he’d taken time to call her.

“Thank you, Ambassador.” The terminal went dark.

It was going to be a long day. Departure days always were. There was the coordination and getting everyone on board and making sure we had our supplies and oh all the little details.

She was very happy with N’amani and all the things he did. He’d been assigned to her detail on a routine trip to the Vega system a few months back. He seemed to naturally take over managing things. He knew what needed to be done and he got it done. He was quite remarkable. And practical. He was always on time and he kept track of everything with such ease.

She finished her coffee, showered, and got dressed. There wasn’t anything else to do. It was time. She went over to the comm terminal.

“N’amani”

“Yes, Ambassador.”

“I’m ready. Please ask the Magellan to start transport.”

“Yes, Ambassador. The other members of our delegation will follow you shortly. We are scheduled to depart at 10:00am local time. Oh, and the Captain would like to see you after you arrive on the station.”

“I understand. I will see you there.”

Yes. It was going to be a long day, she thought as she picked up her personal bag and walked through the door. It was going to be a very long day.

She walked down the hall to the building transport terminal. “Planetary departures” she said as she stepped onto the platform.

The departure terminal wasn’t busy at this hour. It was quiet. She took a deep breath, as if to drink in that quiet, and walked toward the gate.

“May I see your documents?” the guard asked.

She presented her health certifications and personal identification.

“Thank you, Ambassador. Your delegation is cleared to depart. Good Luck.”

“Thank you.”

She turned to look back one more time, as if to record the images in her mind. She hoped that things would go well and she’d be coming home in a few weeks. But there was no way to know until she got there. She smiled, turned around, and stepped onto the platform. It’s going to be another adventure, she thought. It’s always an adventure.

Setting Up                                                              Space Station Promenade, Small Conference Room

She stepped off the platform on the station. It was a little busier. There were several ships docked. Crews were loading supplies. Passengers and crew were all waiting in the secure transport area. She went to the Diplomatic entry channel and handed her identification to the guard.

“Welcome to Dagon 7, Ambassador Lawrence. How long will you be staying with us?”

“I’m in transit, thank you. I’m boarding the Magellan and departing the station as soon as my delegation and our supplies are assembled.

“Good luck, Ambassador,” the guard said, handing her credentials back to her.

She proceeded on to the waiting area. There were a few of the crew, in uniform, sitting near one of the windows. She went over to them.

“Good Morning, I’m Ambassador Lawrence. I was told that Captain Sorrenson wanted to see me. I don’t have a ship’s comm link yet. Could one of you let her know I’m here?” she said.

“Good Morning, Ambassador,” they all said, standing.

“Captain Sorrenson was promoted and reassigned. Captain Logan was given command of the Magellan.” said Commander Brandon. “He’s waiting for you on the Observation Deck. Up those stairs, second floor, turn right. First door on the right.”

“Thank you very much, Commander.” she said and turned to walk away. She knew better than to let show how surprised she was. This was a doozy. She took a deep breath and started up the stairs.

The Magellan was a Lewis-class Interstellar Star Ship with both light drive and star drive capabilities. It had every option and then some. It was one of the best ships in the fleet. Maja, the ship’s AI had been adapted for diplomacy. It was fine to spend a few weeks on a ship at plus light speed, but there were times when being able to skip across a few parsecs in short order was very, very useful. She’d been on the Magellan for several missions and had learned a little about what the ship could do. She was very happy it was now going to be her permanent transport.

Not having to deal with Sorrenson could be a good thing, too. She’d not gotten on well with Captain Sorrenson. Seemed they were always at odds about some little thing or another. Whenever she was on the ship, she tried to keep out of Sorrenson’s way as much as possible. But there were times when she needed someone who was capable of extracting her. Sorrenson could do that with grace and finesse. Personal relationships, not so much. She’d heard a few things about Captain Logan, mostly that he was generally well-regarded and capable. This would be their first meeting and their first mission. Not her preference. Not for this one. She took another deep breath as she reached the top of the stairs.

“Good Morning, Ambassador. I’m so very pleased to meet you.” the rather tall, well-built young man said, walking toward her. “I’m Alexander Logan, Captain of the Magellan.” He seemed quite relaxed and at ease with himself.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Captain,” she smiled, crossed her arms in front of her chest and bowed slightly. It was a well-known custom among those who had been trained on Ras 2. It was one of those old-fashioned elegant gestures that often surprised those she met for the first time, pleasantly.

She focused on radiating calm and trust. That was one of the Lost Arts of the Ancients. As she extended her energy, she was able to see clearly what was in the heart of whoever stood nearby. She didn’t use it that often. But when she was being asked to trust him with the mission and the lives of her team, she wasn’t going to waste time finding out who he was through small talk.

He shifted back a bit. It had seemed to get warmer the closer she came to him. He felt a little uncomfortable, too, as if every part of him was under examination. Then it was over. He was not quite sure what he had just experienced. But now, he had a deep and pervasive sense of peacefulness and tranquility. He took a breath.

She was quite pleased. He had a good heart and he could be stubborn.

“It seems congratulations are in order. The Magellan is a good ship. You have an excellent crew.”

“Thank you. Frankly though, I wasn’t expecting this assignment. But I have to say, I couldn’t be happier. Indeed, the Magellan is an excellent ship with a fine crew. I’d been handling transport and security for several of the Alliance trade representatives in the Altair and Vega sectors. Their work was mostly focused on maintaining existing relationships. There were only a few times when we, em, unfortunately had to leave on less than friendly terms. I understand you have a First-Contact Charter.”

“Yes, I do” she said looking at him with a bit of concern. “What have you been told?”

“Only that I’m supposed to be here, meet you, take you and your delegation somewhere, and bring you home.”

She grinned from ear to ear. This was going to be fun. “Excellent!” she said, taking a seat. “I hope we don’t need those “non-diplomatic methods” this time.” she said, looking a bit sideways with the implication that they could be needed.

He sat down across from her.

“We are going to the Hyades Cluster[1] to meet with the High Council of Kal’en to try to establish regular communications. If I’m successful with the first meetings, we will return to set up the future framework. Kal’en has been mostly receptive to our overtures, but we don’t have anything formal yet. And, like always, there are those who don’t want to see an alliance.”

“Okayyyy… So that first-contact charter really does mean first-contact, doesn’t it.” Grinning with just a bit of apprehension and awe.

“Indeed.” she said. Laughing. It was going to take time for him to understand. It wasn’t a 10 minute explanation.

“Captain Logan, the Ambassador’s detail has arrived on the station. They are waiting in the final departure lounge. We are loading their supplies now.” Commander Brandon informed him.

“Thank you, Commander. We are on our way.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Shall we go? he said. gesturing towards the door. “Are the other members of your detail as interesting as you are, Ambassador?” Captain Logan asked, grinning as the walked out.

“I’d say more so, Captain.” she smiled, wryly. “Shall we go meet them?”

He stepped back to let her go out first and followed her out into the hallway and down the stairs. He was even more curious now. It wasn’t often that the emissaries he’d transported had a full delegation. More than that, this was the first Ambassador he’d transported. And she was turning out to be quite a character.

Welcome                                                                               Space Station Departure Hall, Walkways

She caught a brief view of the promenade as they walked along the hallway on their way to the departure gate. It hadn’t changed much. The horticulture team had done a great job with the façade when it was first installed and it looked breathtaking with all the flowers today. The way the gardens were set and the lighting made it almost seem planetary. The shops were busy.

The departure lounge was large, with high windows, well lit and comfortable. As the walked in, she could see the Magellan tethered just outside. She couldn’t help feeling a little homesick. What a fine ship, she thought.

There was a small group standing just off to one side of the gate. They each had a few personal items. Good, she thought. She had standing instructions not to bring anything extra. There were too many things they had to bring on these trips.

N’amani had taken a position facing departure hall so he could watch for her. He saw her and nodded. He straightened a little as she and the Captain entered the room. The others turned around and fanned out, looking toward the two approaching figures.

“Good Morning” she said, as she reached the group, making it clear that she was speaking to everyone. “I’m very happy to see you are all here, with your luggage.” she said, wryly with a grin. Everyone on her team knew that’s what she expected. They smiled.

“Yes, indeed, we’re ready to go. Where are we going again?” the Doctor asked. He was Doctor Marcus Gray, MD, the delegation physician and one of the key members of her delegation. In addition to his medical skills, he was an accomplished chef and a general supplier of good cheer and silliness.

She smiled. “We are going for a ride on the Magellan, Doctor.” she said with just a hint of impatience. He knew she wasn’t going to discuss anything here. It was just his way of letting her know that he didn’t know something and thought he should.

“Please allow me to introduce Captain Alexander Logan. He’s the new commander of the Magellan. Captain Sorrensen was promoted and has been reassigned. ”

Everyone looks a little surprised but tries to hide it.

“Thank you, Ambassador. I’m pleased to have the chance to meet all of you. And I look forward to having you on board. ” the Captain said. He was already a bit in awe of her.

“Captain, may I present my delegation: N’amani is my Chief of Staff, personal bodyguard, and general right hand. He’s quite good with planning and preparations of all sorts. Doctor Marcus Gray, is our team doctor, chef, and all around good humor guy. He keeps us healthy and spreads a bit of laughter. Elizabeth Michaels, is our team historian and cultures expert. Beth is enhanced. She’s been given an implant that allows her to directly interface with your ship’s AI. Kell is our pilot.”

Kell stepped forward just a little.

Captain Logan had acknowledged each person as she introduced them. He’d met the Elyronym several times. They were exceptional administrators and formidable fighters. So he wasn’t at all surprised that she would have one of their people among her delegation.

As Kell stepped forward, Captain Logan paused for a moment, nodded in recognition, and then looked at the Ambassador, his face curious, puzzled and in awe all at the same time.

“You have an Aldaran pilot?” he asked, trying really hard not to trip over his words.

He was incredulous. First of all, Aldarans hardly ever, really never, would pilot for anyone. They didn’t want to be bothered with mundane flights and they didn’t at all like being told what to do. They were good; really good and rightfully proud of it. They mostly weren’t braggarts, but they knew they were exceptional. It was just a fact. Nobody, but nobody in the known universe could match the Aldarans for their navigation and piloting skills.

“Yes. Kell has been kind enough to ferry me around to a few worlds.” she replied, smiling. “He’s got quite a perspective on the sectors in this part of the galaxy. And, he’s quite good at finding the best places for yangroutang.” Yangroutang was a meat soup she’d learned to like on Ras 2. It wasn’t really a choice back then. She could eat it or have nothing. She learned to like it.

Kell smiled a bit sheepishly. He liked yangroutang. On more than one occasion, he’d managed to adjust their course so hey passed near a planet or a station he knew where they could get it. Even N’amani had acquired a taste for it.

“We have much to discuss, Captain.” the Ambassador said. “Much to discuss. Shall we go?”

Captain Logan nodded and walked over to the gate. “Logan, Alexander. Mark Time. Access: Theta 12 18 Gamma 3 Alpha Mu 7 9.” he said as he placed his palm on the console and waited for the full body scan.

Maja appeared in the entryway. Maja is the ship’s AI.  She appears human, but she’s actually an interactive projection.

“Voice, palm, DNA, medical records, access code all valid. Welcome aboard, Captain.” said Maja. “You have command.”

It wasn’t just a formality for her to say that. She was actually giving him full control of the ship, it’s systems, and all her programs.

“Thank you Maja.” He paused and took a breath. “I have command.” his voice seeming to get a little deeper with the responsibility he just assumed. “I’m sure I have much to learn about the Magellan.”

“Indeed.” Maja replied. She had been programmed with several types of humor, irony among them. She looked at the Ambassador.

“Welcome back, Ambassador.” Maja said.

“Thank you, Maja” she replied, smiling. “I’m quite happy to see you again, too.”

Maja was not an ordinary AI. Her programming included ethics, rewards, and all sorts of things that support the Ambassador’s mission. Developing a bond with an AI was something the Ambassador had to work at. But gradually, she began to understand that the AI was designed to serve the ship. Recognizing that service was important. It not only reinforced her programming, it helped establish patterns of behavior with confidence and trust that were essential for their missions.

They all turned toward the entryway and walked down a short corridor to the docking transit platform. It was designed to handle transport for several dozen people and their goods all at once.

“Guest Quarters, Section 3, Deck 8, Please Maja.” the Captain said.

The AI smiled at his recognition and his effort to be polite.

“Yes, Captain.” she replied.

New Settings                                                        Ambassador’s  Quarters on the Magellan, Hallways

It only took a few seconds to reach the ship. There were multiple transport stations. The Guest Quarters were designed for dignitaries and special guests. There was a broad hallway with windows and several meeting rooms. For those times when someone from a planet might be invited on board, this was the perfect vantage point to see the planet below and help put things in perspective. The Ambassador and her delegation all had their own quarters here.

They chatted a bit as they walked along the hallway towards their quarters. They reached an alcove with several hallways opening off a rounded floor space. There were doors along each.

“Ambassador, I’ll take my leave for now.” the Captain said. “I have a few things to do to get us underway.”

“Thank you, Captain. As soon as you are available, I’d like to have a briefing. We’ll review the details of our mission, such as I have them.”

He nodded. He was curious to find out what they were going to be doing.

“N’amani, may I have a minute?” the Ambassador asked, motioning to him to come with her.

As they enter the Ambassador’s quarters, he takes a small square device out of his pocket. He looks at it as he walks around the room. It has a green glow.

“All clear, Ambassador.”

“Thank you. I wish I didn’t have to be so cautious.”

“You must. I have no wish to be pulling you out of any more piles of rubble. That last attempt on your life was much too close. Those on the Council who would like to see you fail must have been cheering. They will all rally around if you succeed, but they’d rather have a scapegoat.”

“I know. I know. And I suspect that’s part of why Sorrenson was promoted. Not that she didn’t deserve it. She did. She’s one of the best Star ship Captains I’ve ever worked with. She has great instincts and an impeccable sense of timing. (pause) What do you know about Logan?”

“Not much more than you. He’s seen as a rising star in the Alliance. He was given the Star Cross last year for extracting a trade negotiator from a difficult situation near Sirius. They’d been told there was an agrarian planet that was interested in trade. What they weren’t told was that there were two distinct governments vying for control of the food supply. When the trade negotiator arrived, he and his delegation were taken hostage in an attempt to force the other side to give them a high-producing hybrid grain they had developed. Captain Logan managed to create a diversion by tricking their weather systems into registering an unusually cold air mass that would freeze their unharvested crops. Then, he offered to send a shuttle with a team to help harvest before the cold arrived. Once the harvesting team arrived, they convinced the group that the trade negotiator and his team were experts at handling the harvesting controls and needed to be on board. Once they were all on the shuttle, the cold air mass disappeared… and so did the shuttle.”

“I had heard about the rescue, but not how he did it. Clever. So, from what you’ve heard and what your heart tells you, can we count on Logan?”

“I think he will do whatever he believes is the right thing to do to protect his ship, his crew, and you, Ambassador. We’re going to find out what that really means, aren’t we?” He could see from her expression that she had something on her mind.

“Yes. We are.” she replied, nodding just a little.

The comm link chimed and lit up.

“Ambassador, we are preparing to get underway. The Captain asks if you would join him with your team in the diplomatic briefing room in 30 minutes.” Maja’s voice came through.

“We will be there.” she replied. “N’amani….

“I’ll go get the others.” he said.

She really liked his way of knowing what needed to be done. Not that her other Chief’s of Staff hadn’t been capable. They were. But he had an uncanny ability to anticipate. It was refreshing.

She sat down near the windows and looked out. She watched the ship move away from the station. In just a few seconds, she couldn’t see the station anymore. She turned and looked forward. The Hyades Cluster was just barely visible far in the distance. It was going to take them about two weeks to get there. They could go faster, but there were preparations to be made along the way. It should be enough, she thought. It would have to be.

Start Here                                                                         Diplomatic Briefing Room on the Magellan

The briefing room was another of the nice, diplomatic features that had been added to the Magellan. Comfy chairs and windows to watch the stars. Security to protect whatever was said.

She was the first to arrive. She liked being the first one in the room when she had to give a presentation. It gave her a chance to see the room. Even though she’d been in this room many times, she’d been away and wanted to get reacquainted. Where should she sit?

This wasn’t as trivial as it might seem. Her position in the room needed to be just so. it was like that with negotiations, too.

“Daydreaming or planning?” the Doctor asked as he entered the room. She had her back slightly to the door and was looking out the windows.

“Both.” she replied turning around and smiling. “It’s good to see you, Marc. How was your vacation.”

“It was GREAT! I spent most of the time floating in the Tree Gardens on Qili 7 in the Altair system. Have you been there? They have the most amazing fruit, they call it “por’a.” It’s like a sweet cucumber with a hint of apple. It’s wonderful. I brought you some.”

He hands her a small basket of fruit.

“Thank you,” she said, taking it from him. “It sounds like you found a place to go back to?” she said smiling. He was always interested in things that could be eaten and how to prepare them.

She sat down in the middle seat along one side facing the door and put the basket down on the table in front of her.

As the Doctor sat down next to her, Beth and N’amani came in followed by Kell, the Captain and two of his officers. He pauses behind the seat at the head of the table. The others all find open chairs and sit down.

“Ambassador, I’m sure we’re all eager to hear about our mission. The floor is yours.” he said, moving to take a seat on the side. He’d normally take the center chair, but something seemed to tell him not to this time.

“Thank you Captain.” The Ambassador got and moved toward a panel on the wall. She touches it. It lights up to display a star chart.

“We are going to the Hyades Cluster to meet with the High Council of Kal’en. The Central Alliance wants to try to establish a trade treaty with them. Our reports are that planets in their systems have many of the minerals we use in building our ships and fabricating many of our systems. The Kora have been mostly receptive to our overtures.”

She turns towards the table and enters a combination on a small terminal. A 3D model of the Hyades Cluster appears. She moves in to focus on a system with four planets and two suns. There is a heavy asteroid belt just outside the system.

“This is the Kal’en system. Their four planets formed a federation about 300 of our years ago. We’ve been told they developed slowly and don’t have much interest in trade or exploring. Each of their planets has unique resources that are shared with the other planets. Over time, the populations on each of their worlds are adapted to the local conditions. We believe all four planets are receptive to joining the Alliance, but so far, we have only had contact the local leaders on two planets. They have told us that the key Council members are receptive to our plan.”

“Our plan???” interjected the Doctor.

“I’m getting there. k?” laughing and just a little impatient with him.

“This asteroid belt,” pointing at the model, “appears to be littered with rare minerals that we can use to make and power our systems. These are the source minerals for so much of our technologies.”

“But why are we going? It’s a long trip just for a mining agreement.” the Doctor was annoyed. This was such a routine thing. Why were they getting stuck with it.

“Alliance merchant ships passing through in this sector have reported seeing Olmeri scout ships in this area of the Asteroid belt (pointing). This is not a good thing. Once the Olmeri arrive, they begin colonizing. Slowly or more quickly, they take over any habitable planets. They extract the natural and mineral resources to build their megacities, draining the planets of resources and destroying entire planetary ecosystems.“

The Doctor frowned. “This is not good.” he said.

“Really not good.” Beth added.

Everyone else looked concerned, too. Especially the Captain and his first officer.

“It appears the Olmeri have not yet assayed the belt. They are just poking around. That there are lots of asteroids to poke at is a good thing for us.” she continued.

“The bigger problem, and why we’re here, Doctor,” she said, smiling a little, “is that the Kal’en planets have no defenses against the Olmeri. The Kora might even be inclined to try to negotiate. They don’t know the Olmeri. Worse, if the Olmeri are able to establish themselves in the Orion Arm, they will become an even bigger problem for the Central Alliance. We’d rather they by-pass us entirely.”

“So, we’re going to do two things. First, get the Kal’en Council to sign a treaty with the Alliance. Second, we want the Olmeri to believe that the asteroid belt is not worth their time, that there’s not enough of anything to bother about it, and that whatever they might find isn’t worth the trouble.”

“You want to win without fighting as the old Earth philosopher Sun Zi would say.” Kell said.

She nodded. “This approach requires a bit of preparation and a lot of luck.”

“We have two weeks.” she continued. “I know it’s not much and it’s never enough. But it’s what we have. If we don’t go now, the Olmeri have enough time to finish their scans. We need them to believe their scans are false. That’s the goal. We don’t want them to realize what an incredible source of rare minerals that asteroid belt actually is.”

Captain Logan looked at her.

“You look concerned, Captain.” she said. “Did you have a question?”

“Well, actually… em, I was expecting a briefing that was more along the lines of transport times, state dinners, and how you wanted me to manage any meetings on the Magellan. That’s mostly what I had been doing. This is … em… different.”

She laughed. “Yes. Yes, I’m sure it is.” she replied. Then a bit more compassionately, “I am sorry that you have been thrown into this. I’m also a bit unsettled having a new Captain to work with. We are going to have lots of opportunities to get to know each other really, really well over the next two weeks. What I have planned won’t succeed without you and the Magellan.”

He looked at her a bit sheepishly at first, then, with a bit of pride. It was his ship.

“Ambassador, we will do whatever it takes to help you succeed. But I have to be honest, they didn’t tell me any of this when they gave me the commission.” Captain Logan said.

“They couldn’t, Captain. I told you where we were going before because you needed to know. But not even my team knew what we’re going to try to do until just now. My plan depends on making the Olmeri believe what we want them to believe. Any opportunity for them to find out otherwise and we can forget it. They may come back and try again. That’s also why we want a treaty with the Kora. We don’t want to alarm them right off the bat. But the Alliance wants to build monitoring stations on the outskirts of their system so that if the Olmeri do come back, we will have advance warning.”

“But first, we need to get the Kal’en Council to sign the treaty to join the Alliance.” She paused and looked around the room. She knew this was going to be a challenge. She needed to get them ready.

“The Kora are not really interested in the minerals,” Beth said, continuing the presentation.

It was her job to become an expert or as close as possible, on whatever civilization they were going to visit. Not only did she need to learn their recent history, she also need to be able to offer advice and put things in context. That meant reading lots of reports and reviewing any language banks that might be similar to what they could expect.

“They aren’t much interested in the related technologies, either. Our reports indicate they have a fusion process quite similar to ours that they use for most of their energy needs. Their ships aren’t fast enough to go much beyond their local systems. Their culture is focused on providing for the daily lives of their people. So these minerals aren’t something they think of as desirable.”

“The Kora are interested in seeds and other agricultural help that we might be able to offer. That’s why we’re going. They are hesitant because they haven’t had that much contact with anyone outside their systems. Reports indicated they would be very concerned about any sort of outpost.”

“Good insights, Beth. Their not wanting the minerals is interesting. What do you make of it, Kell?”

“My people have met the Kora and have traded with them on occasion. They didn’t have much of anything we wanted and we didn’t have anything they wanted, so we have mostly left each other alone. They are generally not aggressive, although we have heard reports of some difficulties on their third planet recently. Some sort of civil unrest apparently to try to force a change in their ruling council. I think their Council would like to have allies with big guns and long-range weapons.”

The Captain and his first officer both chuckle along with the rest of the team.

“I’m sure they would.” the Captain said, laughing.

“So Captain, are you ready to get started with the details? We have a lot of material to cover and quite a few scenarios to review.” she asked.

“If I could have some time to digest all this, that would be appreciated. Perhaps we could start first thing in the morning?”

“Certainly. It is a lot to take in. N’amani, could you give us quick summary?

N’amani stood.

“Briefly, Beth will be working with Maja to develop a better understanding of the Kal’en culture and languages. The Doctor will be spending time in the archives reviewing their plants, foods, and medical topics. Kell has some modifications he is going to make to the cruiser he’s going to use to seed the belt. I will be working with Commander Brandon on some of the possible scenarios. The Ambassador will brief you, Captain, on what she has planned and what she expects. I’ll prepare an outline and some suggested study options for you.”

Captain Logan nodded approvingly. His previous experience with the expertise of the Elyronym in administrative matters had just been confirmed. That summary was perfect: clear, concise, not too much, and now, they all knew what they would be doing.

“Thank you, N’amani. I think we could all use a break. Doctor, are you cooking for us today? Or do we have to forage on our own?” the Ambassador asked.

“I was hoping you’d ask.” he replied with big grin. “May we avail ourselves of your gardens and stores, Captain.”

“Certainly. Lieutenant Katy, would you help the Doctor get whatever he needs?”

“You and your staff _are_ welcome to join us for dinner Captain.” said the Doctor. He didn’t want them to feel left out.

“Thank you, I’m going to pass this time. Seems I’m going to have a little reading to do.”

They all laugh.

“Ok, more for me” the Doctor said as he and Lt. Katy walked out. Beth and Commander Brandon followed them out the door.

“Ambassador, I will take my leave for now.” the Captain said.

“Try to get some rest,” she said sympathetically. “It is a lot to take in.”

The Captain nodded, looking just a little overwhelmed and a bit worried. He was also just a little excited, anticipating the adventure to come. This was going to be something.

“Thank you Ambassador. See you in the morning.”

She smiled as he walked out.

“Now then,” she said to N’amani and Kell, we have work to do.”

She went over to her bag and pulled out a cube that opened a much more detailed 3D map of the system. They sat down and began studying the map.

Over the next two weeks, they studied maps, looked at the history of the planets, practiced hand-combat drills, and ran the scenarios. Preparations that she hoped wouldn’t be needed.

Chapter 2: A Dinner Party, Part 1: Preparations

Each portion in good measure
Each time unto it’s own
There is more here than is apparent
Look beyond what you know

Coffee with Breakfast Ambassador’s Quarters on the Magellan

Dinner Preparations Diplomatic Briefing Room on the Magellan

Before You Go Diplomatic Briefing Room on the Magellan

Keep Your Eyes Open Flight Deck on the Magellan

Follow the Bouncing Ball Kell’s Ship; In the Asteroid Belt

Coda Flight Deck on the Magellan

All Packed and Ready to Go Ambassador’s Quarters on the Magellan

Bon Voyage Flight Deck on the Magellan

Surprise, We’re Here Landing on Ka’len

Meeting New Friends Outside the City on Ka’len

City Streets Inside the City, Steps Outside the Council Chamber

Something for the Boy Steps Outside the Council Chamber

What’s for Dinner? Kitchen off the Council Chambers, Two Rooms

A Little Nap Ambassador’s Shuttle

Shall we go in? Council Chambers

Truffles and Champagne Ambassador’s Shuttle

Company Has Arrived Ambassador’s Shuttle; Outside the Magellan

An Invitation to Dinner Flight Deck, Bridge on the Magellan

Coffee with Breakfast    Ambassador’s Quarters on the Magellan

She woke up to the smell of fresh coffee and a flute with piano concerto that reminded her of a warm summer’s day. It was the little things. Always the little things, she thought. No matter where she was or what she needed to do, she tried to keep a few little, familiar things. They kept her grounded.

They’d all been working long days. She had told everyone to take the morning off. They had arrived near the Hyades Cluster and were getting close to the Kal’en system. Now they needed to rest. They would arrive tomorrow.

Her plan was to first convince the Kal’en Council to sign the treaty. She didn’t want to alarm them. She was prepared to offer them a few of the Alliance’s newest automated harvesters for their crops, along with some training on how to operate them. She didn’t want to say anything about the outposts or the Olmeri unless she had to.

[Hi. There’s more here… quite a bit more actually. I’ve deliberately left this section out. If you’re interested in what happened on Kal’en, let me know.]

Company Has Arrived                                                      Ambassador’s Shuttle; Outside the Magellan

“Ambassador,” Kell said, his voice ominous. “We have company.”

She went over to his chair. She could barely make out a ship coming towards them from just outside the system. She looked at his navigation screen. It was definitely coming towards them.

“Have they seen us?” she asked.

“I don’t know.” Kell replied.

“Where’s the Magellan?” she asked.

“There” Kell replied, pointing at a different screen with a longer range. “They are holding in place at the rendezvous coordinates.”

There was no way they could get to the Magellan without first encountering the oncoming ship. She had a bad feeling about it. She’d learned long ago to trust her feelings on such things.

“Can you get us into the asteroid belt?” she asked, knowing he could and knowing full well what she was asking.

He looked at her, with a “do you know what you are suggesting and are you nuts?” expression.

“Yes. I can get us into the belt. But you know what that means.” he said, with a warning in his voice.

She nodded. There wasn’t any other option. The Magellan was too far away.

“Everyone,” she said with a tone they had not heard her use. She was not asking. “Put away everything, tie down what might come loose, and strap yourselves in tightly. We need to avoid a meeting so we’re going to take a detour. The ride is going to get bumpy.”

She was trying to be lighthearted about it but she was quite serious. They all saw it and did what she asked.

She turned to Kell.

“la wačhíŋyAŋ. niyé yuštáŋ ktA”[1] (I trust you. You will succeed.) she said, in Baruk, his native language.

“Do whatever you must, Kell.” she said. “Prepare yourselves.” she admonished the others.

Kell maneuvered behind the planet and used it to increase the speed of the shuttle in the shortest path possible towards the asteroid belt. He hoped the approaching ship would see them as a wayward asteroid and not bother with them. He’d just looped around the last planet and had covered about half the distance to the belt when he noticed the other ship increasing their speed to overtake them.

It was too far away to overtake them before they entered the belt. Kell aligned the ship and slid into a stream.

The ship came up along side where they entered the belt, slowed and began to follow them from outside the belt. They were all but invisible among the asteroids.

Kell made the twists and turns seem effortless. But it was more than a bumpy ride. The turns and twists tossed them back and forth, side to side in their seats. Sometimes, there were up and down turns too. Vertical was not something any of them often felt on a star ship. The stabilizers took care of that. But Kell was pushing the ship well beyond it’s original design specs. He’d modified it, and not for comfort. He found a sub-stream and turned. It took them to the inside edge of the belt. The ship that had been following them was on the other side. They couldn’t be seen. They were much closer to the Magellan.

“Captain Logan, are you there?” the Ambassador asked into the comm link. She was still a bit dazed. Kell had been with her for 12 years and she’d flown some wild rides with him dozens of times. This was going to be one for the storybooks.

“We’re here, Ambassador. We should be ready to receive your shuttle shortly.”

“Ah, Captain,” she started. “Now would be good. We are closer than you think. So, if you could move things along a bit more quickly, we have some new friends in a ship on the other side of the belt looking for us and we’d rather not meet them on this shuttle.” she told him, quickly giving him the situation.

“I understand, Ambassador.” he replied, signaling to his officers to scramble. “We have the new coordinates from Kell. We will be ready on this side in …. just under 30 seconds.”

Just as he says this, Kell spots the other ship dropping under the asteroid belt.

With the belt no longer blocking their view, the Ambassador’s shuttle and the Magellan are clearly in view. The ship begins to accelerate rapidly and aggressively.

“Captain, can you nudge one of those smaller asteroids closer to that ship and open it up without them realizing it was you?” the Ambassador asked.

The Captain stopped, turned his head to one side quizzically, looked at his screens, and replied, “Yes, Ambassador. Yes we can. We can absolutely do that. Lt. Katy, please acquire a target and fire a pulse.

“Target acquired. Target destroyed, Captain.”

The other ship began gradually slowing down and kept slowing until it was almost not moving at all. It had picked up quite a bit of cobalt chasing the Ambassador’s shuttle and the barnacles were hungry.

“Ambassador,” Kell said, with some concern. There was a larger ship coming towards them. “We have another problem.”

“Let’s get back to the Magellan.” she said with a note of determination and anxiety in her voice. She hadn’t recognized the first ship. It was a design she’d not seen. She recognized the second. It was the Olmeri.

Kell accelerated as much as he could, entered the bay and parked the shuttle.

An Invitation to Dinner                                                                Flight Deck, Bridge on the Magellan

As they waited for the door to close, the Ambassador gave directions while she changed into her formal robes. “Doctor, you will come with me. Get dressed. Beth, quickly. You know what we need. N’amani, take care of background. Kell, tactical flight auxiliary.”

She was hoping that with their previous planning and little luck, nothing would happen. The Olmeri were a surly lot that wanted to argue about every little tiny thing. She wanted to bypass that and get straight to the part about them leaving.

As soon as the doors open, they all move quickly to where they need to go.

“Captain, the Ambassador said, as she and the Doctor arrived on the bridge. “I’ve asked Kell to go to auxiliary flight control. He is ready. I hope we don’t need him. Beth, are you and N’amani ready” she asks. The comm link behind her lights up.

“Yes Ambassador.” N’amani replied.

“Captain Logan, would you please hail our friends, with video. I’d like to speak with them.”

He looked at her. “You want to speak with them? They just tried to hijack your shuttle. They’ve not been friendly. Why are you…” he stopped.

She had turned to face him. As she did, she looked directly at him. He wasn’t sure what happened, but he knew, with complete confidence, that he was going to do exactly what she asked.

“Yes, Ambassador.”

The Ambassador turned back to face the screen. She signals Beth and N’amani.

“I bid you greetings on behalf of the Central Alliance. I am Ambassador Micha Lawrence, Third Daughter of El’Aran of Vega and First Disciple of Master Tai Aragon of Ras’alhague. I am a Keeper of Earth. I bid you welcome.” she crossed her arms, extended both hands, palms up, closed to the center and bowed. Again she seemed to get taller as she extended her hands.

The Captain and the other Olmeri are clearly surprised to see her and a bit shocked. They were familiar with the Masters of Ras’alhague. They have met only a few of the Keepers and would prefer to not meet any of them ever again. Every time they met, the Olmeri had to retreat. They didn’t like it. That she and the Doctor were both wearing the robes of Adepts gave them pause. They recognized her colors: Earth. The Doctor was wearing the colors of Water.

“Greetings Ambassador.” said the Captain of the Olmeri ship. “We had no idea you were aboard. From the erratic way that shuttle was flying, it seemed to us it was lost and did not have an adequate pilot. There aren’t any space stations nearby. We were only trying render assistance.”

He was deliberately being insulting by not giving his name and his ship’s name. It was standard protocol to identify yourself and your ship.

She knew this was bull. Their scans would have picked up the signal from her personal seal on the shuttle. And the insult to her pilot, well, that would have to be overlooked to protect the Kora. As for rendering assistance, that was one she hadn’t heard before. He clearly did not expect her to buy that.

As he started talking, Beth put a clip of the treaty signing on Kal’en on a screen that he could clearly see. On another, N’amani has put up some archive footage of a trade mission they had completed two years earlier to the Elnath[2] system that showed them entering the system. Beth begins editing to bring the footage together on a third screen.

The Ambassador notices the Captain has changed his focus. She turns slightly and sees Beth working with the clips. She signals quickly to Beth to turn it off and turns back to the video link. This has all been pre-arranged, for the Olmeri’s benefit. She wanted them to see the signing. And, she wanted them to believe it was in a different star system.

“Hardly, Captain,” she replied looking as if that was something she didn’t want him to see. “We are returning from some trade meetings. I’m sure you know how those go. Lots of recordings and dinners. We took an unplanned detour. Then we had some trouble with our navigation systems and ended up off course. Did you have trouble with your navigation too?” she asked.

“No. We have no problems with our navigation.” he replied, as if there were never any issues.

“That’s good to know, Captain.” She paused. “Since you are here, perhaps you would join us for dinner? I’m sure we could find lots of things to talk about.” she said smiling at him broadly.

“Thank you for the invitation, Ambassador. Another time.” he replied tersely.

“Very well. Another time, Captain.” she says, signaling to the Captain to close the comm link.

The Ambassador took a deep breath and straightened a bit.

She and the Doctor have been standing very close together the entire time. They moved apart.

The Doctor had been standing just a little behind and to the side of her. He was supporting her weight. Not that anyone would notice. It was becoming harder and harder for her to recover after she did something like this and his help was most welcome. While she was talking, she had planted several ideas the Olmeri Captain would believe were his own. It took quite a bit of effort. Having the Doctor’s support, literally, made it easier. It was one of the Lost Arts, being able to transfer one’s energy and thoughts to another.

She turns to look at the Captain.

“Please take us home, would you Captain?” she asks, smiling a tired and grateful smile.

He nods. “Of course.”

She and the Doctor turn to leave. She pauses at a comm link.

“Kell, N’amani, Beth, all of you, good job. Very good job. We’re going home.”

Captain Logan watched them leave. He shook his head. He was still trying to take in what just happened. The Olmeri were ready for a fight, they wanted a fight. He could see that. He was ready. If that’s what they wanted, he would be happy to oblige. And she did what? She stood there and invited them to dinner. And they left? How did she manage that? He saw it. He was sitting right there. He didn’t believe it. It seemed he was going to have to get used to being surprised. This wasn’t going to be just another diplomatic ferry assignment. He smiled and sat up just a little straighter in his chair.

“Set course for Fomalhaut. ” the Captain ordered. “Let’s go home.”

The crew began going about their duties as the ship turned and accelerated.

There would be debriefings and reports and all the things that had to be done later.

For now, they could all enjoy today. Today was a good day.

 

[1] Aldebaran lies in the same line of sight as the Hyades, the nearest open star cluster to Earth. The V-shaped cluster outlines the head of the celestial Bull and Aldebaran appears as its brightest member even though it is not. The star lies only 65.3 light years away, while the cluster is located at more than twice the distance (153 light years).

[1] Lakota Sioux is my intent. May not be correct. https://www.lakotadictionary.org/phpBB3/nldo4.php

[2] Elnath is the second brightest star in both Taurus and Auriga, and the 25th brightest star in the heavens. It is located near the anti-center of the Milky Way Galaxy – the point directly opposite the galactic center, which lies in Sagittarius.

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