Ambassador Micha Lawrence would like to retire. But the High Council has given her a new assignment. To complete it, she will need help from some old friends and some new ones. (Andy Taylor and the Little Rascals meet Jacqueline Chan in space. Good friends, good food, good times (and some bad guys) in our Local Neighborhood.)
Combining elements of space opera, fantasy, and tightly-grounded science fiction, THE AMBASSADOR, an adult / young adult science fiction work is complete. ~53,000 words. (Adventure, Journey, Coming of Age, Secrets, Special Skills and Objects, Friendships)
Ambassador Micha Lawrence is getting older and she knows it. She’s a teacher and a shrewd negotiator, an adept martial artist, linguist, and a keeper of the ancient arts. She keeps a few secrets, too. She’s thinking about retiring. She’d like to find someone to teach, really teach, everything she knows. She’d like to have more of a legacy than just another recorded archive.
Micha enjoys her role and her position as a First Contact Ambassador. She’s doing what she always dreamed of doing. It took her years of hard work and some luck. She’s gotten used to skipping across star systems, arranging dinners with new friends on distant worlds, and handling all the negotiations behind the scenes. She is very good at finding creative solutions to difficult problems. She’s been successful. She is well-liked and respected.
The High Council has given her a new assignment. She’s going to the Hyades Cluster with her team, a new ship, and a new captain to find out what the Olmeri are up to and negotiate a treaty with the Kora. She gets more than she hoped for in the treaty. Everyone celebrates.
As they are leaving, they encounter the Olmeri. To protect the Kora, the Ambassador introduces herself to the Olmeri, making herself a target for their ire. They don’t like being outwitted and outmaneuvered. They really don’t like her.
All is quiet for a time. The Olmeri return and are coming towards the Local Neighborhood. The Alliance must find a way to stop them. The Ambassador comes up with a plan to lure the Olmeri towards the Perseus Transit and gather intelligence to try to stop their destructive harvesting.
This mission is going to be one of the most difficult things she’s ever tried to do. It will take all her skills and more. She going to need help from some old friends and some new ones.
Before you and after you
We will remain
We have looked to the stars for 10,000 years. From the time before the early orbiters to the first colonies on Mars and the breakthroughs that let us travel to the nearby stars, we wanted to go. We wanted to go out, to find what we could, to discover what we didn’t know. So we did.
We moved out among the stars in our Local Neighborhood.
Micha Lawrence was born into a royal family long after the time royalty mattered to anyone. She knew early on that she wanted to become an ambassador.
After several tries, she was accepted by the Masters at Ras’alhague for training to become an Ambassador for the Central Alliance. She spent 3 years on Ras 2 to complete her training, becoming an Adept in the Lost Arts of the Ancients and a Keeper of Earth.
Everyone who completed the training was well-received and well-liked. All were formidable fighters and shrewd negotiators with a reputation for not being those to cross. A few were selected for a First Contact Charter. A First Contact Charter gave the Ambassador holding it the full backing of the Central Alliance High Council to make whatever decisions were required, without consultations.
She spent time as a negotiator and as an assistant ambassador, earning praise from others while developing her diplomatic and negotiation skills. She quickly earned the trust and respect of the High Council. She was offered and accepted a First Contact Charter.
She gained quite a reputation for the dinners she hosted and arranged, with attendees talking about the food for weeks afterward. She often managed to get agreements signed quickly and to sort out disputes favorably to everyone. A few times, the planetary councils had been hostile. She’d managed to outwit them, mostly. She’d had to fight her way out a few times, too.
The Central Alliance High Council has given her a new assignment.
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
She turned over in bed for the fourth time. It wasn’t working. She couldn’t get back to sleep. She knew she would need to get up soon and that kept her half-awake.
What time is it? she thought, rolling over to look at the clock. Almost 3. Might as well get up and make coffee, she thought. No one to hear her if she’d spoken aloud. She smiled at that. She liked being alone and was comfortable with her thoughts. Considering what she was getting ready to go do, she appreciated having some quiet time. it was always more quiet this time of morning. Even the birds weren’t up yet.
She sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed, started to get up, and sat back down. Some days her knees just didn’t want to move.
As she sat there rubbing her knees, she thought about all the other times she’d gotten up early. Most of her departure days had been like this one – getting up early, trying to find a little more time to gather herself before starting out. She’d long ago figured out that whatever needed to be done had to be finished a few days early. The last 24 hours, she kept for herself. She’d be paying attention to everyone else over the coming weeks. Having a little time to think about whatever she wanted was a gift.
Getting up earlier than usual wasn’t as easy as it used to be. Retirement was starting to look better and better. Leave this work to someone younger. Stay home. Putter in the garden. Teach a little perhaps. There were some who showed promise among the candidates on Ras 2 this year. Maybe she’d visit after she got back.
She stood up and put on a robe. It was a little chilly. The smell of fresh-brewed coffee drifted into the room. “It was supposed to start at 4:00?” she thought. She checked the clock. It was just after.
The wood floor in the outer room was cool. She didn’t wear shoes in the house, not normally. The small lights along the edge of floor came on as she walked through to the kitchen. She didn’t want to put the main lights on. Not yet. It was nice. Sitting in the quiet with only the small lights. She took a deep breath.
The coffee was still brewing. It was one of those little, special things. Medium dark roast, aromatic blend. She took another deep breath, reached for her cup, and poured just a bit. It wasn’t quite ready. She liked just a little of that sharp bitter taste that only very strong coffee had.
She walked through the kitchen to the back patio, smiling a little as she looked at the cup. Brewed coffee was one of the little things she had tried 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.
She opened the door to the patio, walked out, turned around, and went back to get her slippers. Just a little cooler than comfortable, she thought.
She stopped to pour a full cup as she went back out onto the patio. She looked up at the stars. She paced a little. She blew across the top of her cup, more for the aroma than to try to cool the already lukewarm coffee. She looked up again and shook her head sadly. She’d seen the reports. It wasn’t good.
The Olmeri were moving along the edge of the Orion Arm. Long-distance traders were sending in reports that formerly reliable trading partners for grains and other staples had stopped trading – with anyone. The Alliance had inquired. The Olmeri replied that it was their choice to trade with others or not. The whole situation was worrisome. Not only was it a trading problem, those systems had not previously been controlled by the Olmeri.
She went back inside to refill her cup. She sighed and leaned against the counter as she blew across the top of the cup and took a deep breath. “Probably should get moving, she thought. I’m not going to figure out a solution in the next few minutes.”
It was going to be a long day. Departure days always were. There was the coordination and getting everyone on board and making sure of all the supplies and oh all the little details.
A chime sounded and a comm terminal lit up. She reached over switched it to audio only.
“Good Morning, Ambassador” N’amani’s clear, resonant voice came through the speaker.
“Good Morning, N’amani” she replied, smiling to herself. He was very efficient. “You’re up early.”
“It’s just after 6:00 am Ambassador.”
“So it seems,” she said dryly, looking at the clock. “I’ve been up for awhile now. I have my coffee in hand. Everything is packed. I’ll be ready in 30 minutes. Thank you for the reminder. It is appreciated.” She really was happy with his reminder. She had not been paying attention to the time. They still had quite a bit to get done before they could leave. She was impressed he’d made time to call her.
“You are welcome, Ambassador.” N’amani replied, his voice happy with the recognition.
She was very happy with N’amani and all the little things he did to keep everything going smoothly and in order. She’d requested he be assigned to her detail after what was supposed to be a routine trip to the Vega system a few months back.
He’d been assigned to fill in until she could find a permanent Chief of Staff. 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.
Unfortunately, their trip to the Vega system turned out not to be such a routine trip. They’d been told that a quiet meeting with a senior trade emissary for Vega 3 had been arranged at a local resort. They would have a private lunch to discuss markets and tariffs without distractions. The Alliance wanted to get the issues sorted out and a treaty signed. The Vega system had been a very good trading partner for many years, until recently. So they sent her.
It turned out to be a trap to scuttle trade talks with the Alliance. There was no senior trade emissary. The Ambassador and N’amani had gone to look at the room where they expected to meet the trade emissary. As they turned to leave, one of the wall panels opened and three not so friendly ‘delegates’ entered. Four more came in through the door, blocking their exit. N’amani maneuvered behind her to lure the three into her grappling range and then stepped toward the door. She had disabled all three with a joint lock, a well-placed kick, and a twist while he took out the other four. Nice turns he had, she thought remembering how he changed directions to defeat all four. Nice turns, she smiled.
She finished her coffee, showered, and got dressed. She wasn’t planning on meeting anyone, so she could wear casual clothes, a simple tunic, blouse, and pants. She slipped on a pair of comfortable flat shoes. She tied her favorite red and gold belt around the outside of her tunic and fastened her Ambassador’s pin to her collar. She was quite proud of it. It was a simple design, gold, round with a ring of braid inside the rim. In the center, on a dark gold highlighted background, was a light blue image of the first starmap humans designed, not as a way to imagine themselves as the center among the stars; rather as a way to imagine themselves among the stars. It was elegant, not gaudy. Subtle.
There wasn’t anything else to do. It was time. She went over to the comm terminal.
“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 smiled a little as she walked outside. The sun was up. There was just the hint of a breeze. The transport terminal was only a few minutes walk through the main garden. There were advantages to having quarters in a diplomatic compound.
She walked into the transport terminal. “Planetary departures” she said as she stepped onto the platform. It only took a few seconds for her to rematerialize at the departure terminal.
They weren’t busy just yet. It was still early. She took a deep breath, as if to drink in that quiet, and walked toward the gate.
“May I see your documents, Ambassador?” the guard asked, noticing her pin.
She presented her health certifications and personal identification.
“Thank you, Ambassador. Your delegation has already been cleared. Good Luck.”
She turned to look back one more time, as if to record an image of the departure hall 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 station departure platform. It’s going to be another adventure, she thought. It’s always an adventure.
She stepped off the platform on the station. She could see through the windows that it was a little busy today. Steady streams of people were moving from platforms to boarding gates. There were several ships docked. Crews were loading supplies.
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 put her credentials back in her pocket and walked through the corridor towards the waiting areas.
The Magellan was a Lewis-class interstellar ship with both light drive and star drive capabilities. It was fine to spend a few weeks on a ship at light speed, but there were times when being able to skip across 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. It was one of the best ships in the fleet. She was very happy it was now going to be her permanent transport.
She spotted several people in the uniforms of the Magellan near one of the windows. She walked 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.
They had been talking among themselves. The two with their backs to her turned to face her.
“Good Morning, Ambassador,” they all said.
A tall young woman with pixie cut short brown hair was standing just behind the others looking down at a hand-held tablet. She looked up and smiled as she stepped forward.
“It’s good to see you again, Ambassador.” Commander Brandon said. “Captain Sorrenson was promoted and reassigned. Captain Alexander Logan has been given command of the Magellan. 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. Good to see you too.” She said and turned toward the stairs. She knew better than to let show how surprised she was. This was a doozy. She took a deep breath.
She reached up, took her pin off, and put it in her pocket as she went up the stairs.
Not having to deal with Sorrenson could be a good thing. 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.
A rather tall, well-built young man stood near the railing overlooking the departure floor. He seemed quite relaxed and at ease with himself. She recognized his uniform.
He looked up as she came out of the stairwell.
“I’m sorry, this area is restricted. Can I help you find your transport?” he asked gently.
She wasn’t tall, but she wasn’t short either. Her clothes were average, too; something any traveler might wear. Her hair was dark blonde with a bit of white at the temples. She had it tied and draped over one shoulder. A shoulder bag on the other. He blinked a couple of times. She very much reminded him of one of his training instructors at the academy. She had the same clear blue eyes that seemed to be open to the universe and could look straight through him.
“Thank you.” she replied smiling. “Yes, you could help with that.”
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 do this often. It was a bit intrusive. But she was being asked to trust him with this mission and the lives of her team. She wasn’t going to waste time finding out who he was through small talk.
“Perhaps if you tell me where you are going?” he asked.
“Yes, perhaps I could tell you where I am going.” she replied smiling a wry smile.
He shifted back a bit. He began to feel warmer, as if the air temperature had just gone up 10 degrees. He felt a little uncomfortable, too. It felt as if every part of him was under examination. Then it was over. He was not quite sure what he had just experienced. But he had a deep and pervasive sense of peacefulness and tranquility. He took a breath.
“So where are you going?” he asked directly. He was beginning to get a little frustrated with her. And, he was unnerved by what had just happened to him, whatever it was.
She smiled a little bigger. “I am going there.” She said, pointing at the stars through the windows.
“Yes, of course you are.” he said, smiling a little. Ok. She’s not quite all there, he thought to himself. “And how are you going to get there?” he asked with as much sympathy as he could muster. Her family must be worried about her. ‘How can I get her to tell me something useful?’ he thought.
“I have a ship.” she replied. “A very nice ship, too.”
“Does your ship have a name?” he asked.
She wanted to laugh. She really did. It was hard to keep this going. He’d already told her everything she needed to know. Maybe she should, nah, one more. She thought, trying to suppress a smile.
“Of course my ship has a name. And a Captain too.” She replied, feigning a bit of annoyance.
“Could you tell me what the name of your ship is?” he asked, trying to be patient with her.
“I could. And so could you.” she replied, breaking into a big smile as she reached into her pocket. She put her pin back on her collar.
“Pleased to meet you, Captain Logan. I am Ambassador Micha Lawrence.” She smiled, crossed her arms in front of her chest, extended her hands slightly with the palms up, closed them inwardly with the palms down, and bowed slightly.
It was a customary greeting used among those who had been trained on Ras 2. A simple, old-fashioned, elegant gesture that had been handed down through the generations.
He smiled recognizing the greeting and realizing she’d just tested him. Apparently, he passed the test.
“Good Morning, Ambassador. I’m also very pleased to meet you. Although someone might have… ” he shook his head.
They both laughed.
She was quite pleased. He was quick, he had a good heart and he could be stubborn.
They walked into a small conference room along the inside of the observation deck. She closed the door.
“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’ve 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.”
This was going to be fun. “Excellent!” she replied, with a big Cheshire cat grin. She took a seat at a small table on one side of the room. That he was ready to go and didn’t know where he was going or exactly what he was going to be doing reflected well on his character. He had courage.
“I hope we don’t need those “less than friendly” options 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 to meet with the High Council of Ka’len to try to establish a regular relationship, communications, trade, all that. If I’m successful with the first meetings, we will return to set up the future framework. The Ka’len Council has been mostly receptive to our overtures, but we don’t have anything formal yet.”
“Okayyyy… So that first-contact charter really does mean first-contact, doesn’t it.” He said, sitting back and 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. “We should have a full briefing once we are underway.”
“Captain Logan,” Commander Brandon’s voice through his comm link interrupted them. “We have all the Ambassador’s supplies loaded. Her detail is waiting for you in the final departure lounge. We are ready to depart.”
“Thank you, Commander. We are on our way.”
“Shall we go, Ambassador?” he said. gesturing towards the door. “Are the other members of your detail as interesting as you are?” Captain Logan asked, grinning as they 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.
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 shops were busy. The horticulture team had done a great job with the facade when it was first installed. It was designed to replicate terraces on a mountain-side, with stairs and small alcoves. They’d planted vines that trailed down from the top to cover the rock walls and trees with intricate lighting to mimic day and night. There were sprinklers that could make it seem as if it were raining and others that sprayed a fine mist. Even from here, she could smell the freshness of just watered plants. Every so often, they’d do something special. Today, they’d put new spring flowers in among the permanent installations. Peonies and crocus, daffodils and daylilies, with rows of so many colored tulips along the edges. Quite nicely done. It almost seemed planetary. She took a deep breath.
The departure lounge was large, with high windows, well lit and comfortable. As they walked in, she could see the Magellan tethered just outside. She couldn’t help feeling a little homesick. What a fine ship, she thought.
The Captain looked around the room for what might be her delegation. There was a small group standing just off to one side of the gate. They each had a few personal items. That couldn’t be… he thought. But apparently…
The Ambassador had spotted them and was walking towards them. He followed.
N’amani had taken a position facing departure hall so he could watch for her. He saw her and nodded. He had straightened a little as she and the Captain entered the room. The others turned around, 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. She had standing instructions not to bring anything extra. There were too many things they had to bring on these trips.
They all smiled.
“Yes, indeed, we’re ready to go. Where are we going again?” the Doctor asked. 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.
“We are going for a ride on the Magellan, Doctor.” she said with just a hint of impatience, smiling and pointing at the ship.
“Please allow me to introduce Captain Alexander Logan. He’s the new commander of the Magellan. Captain Sorrensen was promoted and has been reassigned.”
They all look a little surprised and try 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 and your delegation 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.”
N’amani stepped forward and bowed slightly. He was squarely built and just a little taller than the Captain with the characteristic blueish tint to his skin and hair of the Elyronym.
“Doctor Marcus Gray. Marc is our team doctor, chef, and all around good humor guy. He keeps us healthy and spreads a bit of laughter.”
“I’m quite good with medical things, too.” the Doctor quipped, grinning playfully.
Captain Logan looked at him with a bit of a grin. He was slender with a boyish face and a curious sense of enjoyment. The only way to explain it was that he was simply happy.
“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.”
Beth stayed back until N’amani coaxed her forward. She was the youngest of the group. She smiled at the Captain, nodded, and took a step back. She was quite shy, unless she was behind a camera.
“Kell is my pilot.”
Kell stepped forward just a little.
Captain Logan 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 nodded as he had with the others. He wasn’t quite sure. Kell wasn’t that tall. He was slender with short dark hair and a tunic that was very similar to what the Ambassador was wearing. Then, he noticed Kell’s hands. His fingers were quite long. He looked up Kell and at the Ambassador and back at Kell, his face curious, puzzled and in awe all at the same time.
Kell smiled. He rather enjoyed these kinds of introductions. She’d done it again. He chuckled to himself.
“You have an Aldaran pilot?” he asked, looking at the Ambassador and 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 they 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, the ship’s AI, appeared in the center of the entryway. The ship’s designers had given the AI projection the outward appearance of a human female in her early thirties with shoulder length brown hair and green eyes. She wore a ship’s uniform. She could block or grant access to the ship.
“Voice, palm, DNA, medical records, access code all valid. Welcome aboard, Captain.” said Maja stepping aside. “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 happy to be back. It’s good see you again.”
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.
Maja smiled at his recognition and his effort to be polite.
“Yes, Captain.” she replied.
The Guest Quarters section was 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 each had their own quarters in this section of the ship.
They chatted a bit as they walked along the hallway. They reached an alcove with several smaller hallways opening off a rounded area.
“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 that briefing. I’ll go over the details of our mission, such as I have them.”
“N’amani, may I have a minute?” the Ambassador asked, motioning to him to come with her.
As they entered the Ambassador’s quarters, N’amani took a small cube out of his pocket. He put it in the center of his palm and walked around the room. The cube glowed green.
“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 if you fail, they will be happy with 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 captains I’ve ever worked with. She has great instincts and an impeccable sense of timing. 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 said.
“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 Chiefs 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.
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. One of his specialties was 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.
The Doctor sat down next to her. Beth and N’amani came in followed by Kell, the Captain, Commander Brandon and a young officer she didn’t recognize.
The Captain paused behind the seat at the head of the table.
“Ambassador, I’m sure we’re all eager to hear about our mission. I understand you know Commander Brandon. Lt. Katy” he says as he nods towards her “is our new flight officer. The floor is yours Ambassador.” 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 up and moved to a panel on the wall. She waved her hand across a sensor. The panel lit up to display a star chart.
“We are going to the Hyades Cluster to meet with the High Council of Ka’len. The Central Alliance wants to try to establish a trade treaty with them. Our early reports are that the civilizations in their system are mostly agrarian. They don’t seem to have much industry. Two of their planets and a nearby asteroid belt have many of the minerals we use in building our ships and fabricating our systems. So we’re going to see if we can arrange a treaty. The Ka’len people, 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 zooms 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 Ka’len 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. Over time, the populations on each of the worlds have adapted to the local conditions. We believe all four planets are receptive to joining the Alliance. So far, we have only secondary contact through some traders who talked with the local leaders on two planets. They have told us quietly 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, “is rich in the rare minerals we use to make and power our systems. These are the source minerals for many of our technologies.” she repeated.
“But why are we going? It’s a long trip just for a mining agreement.” the Doctor was annoyed. “This is such a routine thing. Why are we getting stuck with it?”
The Ambassador looked at him and then around the room. She took a breath.
“Alliance merchant ships passing through in this sector have reported seeing Olmeri scout ships in this area of the Asteroid belt (pointing). This is a problem. 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, wrecking the ecosystems, and leaving very little for the original inhabitants.“
The Doctor frowned. “This is not good.” he said.
“Really not good.” Beth added.
Everyone else looked concerned, too. The Captain and his first officer both shake their heads.
“From the information we have, it appears the Olmeri have not yet assayed the belt. They don’t know what’s there. 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 Ka’len planets have no defenses against the Olmeri. Their people, 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 Ka’len 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 even if they read some minerals, there’s not enough of anything useful to bother about; that whatever they might find isn’t worth the trouble. So we’re going to seed it with other minerals to confuse their sensors.”
“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 will have enough time to finish their scans. We need them to believe they found nothing and go away. That’s the goal. We don’t want them to discover what an incredible source of rare minerals that asteroid belt actually is and we absolutely don’t want them taking over the Ka’len system.”
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 now.
“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 walk in the door sounding the alarm bells. But we need to do something. The Alliance wants to build monitoring stations on the outskirts of their system to keep an eye on the Olmeri. But first, we need to get the Ka’len 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 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 system. Their culture is focused on providing for the daily needs of their people. So these rare 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 been the conversation the traders we have contacted them through have had. The Kora 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 outposts nearby. They would likely be alarmed by the Olmeri.”
“Good insights, Beth. Their not wanting the rare minerals is interesting. Do you know anything about the Kora, 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.” the Ambassador 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, would you give all of us quick summary?
“Briefly, Beth will be working with Maja to develop a better understanding of the Ka’len 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 asteroid 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 smiled and 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 scenarios. Preparations 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
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 liked having a few of the little things. They kept her grounded.
She got up, changed into her travel clothes, and poured a cup. She walked over to the window and looked out, then blew across the top of the cup, took a deep breath, and went over to her desk. “Ships quarters are smaller than my apartment on Dagon.” she joked to herself. “Two steps and I’m here.” She sat down and picked up a tablet. She wanted to review the treaty documents one more time.
They’d all been working long days. She had told everyone to take the morning off. They were approaching the Hyades Cluster. They would arrive at the Ka’len system tomorrow.
Now, they needed to rest.
Her plan was to first convince the Ka’len Council to sign the treaty. She had prepared a plan to offer them a few of the Alliance’s newest automated harvesters for their crops, along with some training on how to operate them. Whatever else would have to come after. She needed a way to gain their confidence and their trust. The problem was, they didn’t have much information. That made it difficult for her to figure out what they might want the most and whether or not she could arrange it.
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” (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 said this, Kell spotted the other ship dropping under the asteroid belt.
With the belt no longer blocking their view, the Ambassador’s shuttle and the Magellan could be seen clearly. The ship began 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 the targets and fire.
“Targets acquired. Target 1 painted. Target 2 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.
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. Set up three stations. Just show the treaty. You know what we need. N’amani, take care of background. Use the oldest approach footage you have. 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 opened, they all moved quickly in various directions.
“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?”
The comm link behind her lit up.
“Yes Ambassador,” N’amani replied. “Yes Ambassador,” Beth 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 turned to face him and 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.
She turned back to face the screen, signaling 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 them to the center and bowed. She seemed to get taller.
The Captain and the other Olmeri were clearly surprised to see her and a bit shocked. They were familiar with the Masters of Ras’alhague. They had 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. They liked it less that she and the Doctor were both wearing the robes of Adepts. They recognized her colors: Earth. The Doctor wore 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 Ka’len 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 system that showed them entering the system. Beth began editing to bring the footage together on a third screen.
The Ambassador noticed the Captain has changed his focus and is looking behind her. She turns slightly to where she can see 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 like to 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 said, signaling to the Captain to close the comm link.
The Ambassador took a deep breath and straightened a bit.
She and the Doctor had 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 partly supporting her weight, not that anyone would notice. It was becoming harder and harder for her 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.
She turned to look at the Captain.
“Please take us home, would you Captain?” she asked, smiling a tired and grateful smile.
“Of course,” he smiled at her and nodded.
She and the Doctor turned to leave. She paused 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.
 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.
 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).
 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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