After leaving his father’s quarters, Alex decided to stop by the O club. A young 2nd Lt., who was somewhat musical, was sitting in the corner.He strummed a guitar and began to sing a song of his own devising.“Oh, the Lizbet is a mighty ship,” he sang, just a little off key, “She carries our hopes and dreams and family to-o.”Alex was not so sure about the family of an officer that young, then he looked to one side of the bar and realized that there was another human like the young 2nd Lt.They were twins and this one too was an officer like his brother.He looked at them a little closer and realized that they looked familiar.Then he began to applaud a little too loudly and long.‘Of course,’ he thought to himself, ‘the McInnis twins.’
The next morning there was a meeting of the scout ships pilots and crews. The divisional commander was a Lieutenant Colonel Wilhelm Schmidt. He began the meeting by introducing himself to those who did not know him.“I am Lt. Col. Wilhelm Schmidt,” he said in a faintly German accent.“As you can tell I am from the European Union of Earth.I am divisional commander of the scout ship division on the Lizbet . Those of you who know the military organization of the ship know that I am under Lt. Gen. Marcus McCoy and General Evander Arden.I have two officers who report directly to me.For the humans it is Major Tse Wei Lee,” he said indicating the Chinese man sitting to his right.“For the Laokans it is Major Mrissass,” he indicated the female Laokan sitting beyond Major Lee.“Now we will begin by hearing what General Arden has to say to us about this mission.” “Thank-you Col. Schmidt,“ the General was on the ship wide video com. He began by using the military short hand of referring to the Lt. Col. by only a portion of the title of his rank. “As you know I am the commander of the Lizbet .Our mission is to seek out and contact those societies whose technological development indicates that they are ready for contact with us.Those are races that are space faring, or space ready.You will find that your scout ships are lightly armed.When surveying the star systems that you are assigned to, please keep that in
mind. We have several star systems that we have picked up transmissions from. We will start with them.We are giving you the best chance we can for a successful first con-tact.We expect you to take care in making the best of it.Wing Commanders, you are the most experienced pilots that we have.We expect you to give your crews the best briefing you can to prepare them as much as possible for their mission.To all of you, I want you to know that we have confidence in your abilities as pilots and as diplomats.”With that the video cast ended.
“Alright,“ Lt. Col. Schmidt began again. “I will now assign wing commanders.First, Red Wing commanded by 1st Lt. Walker.The ships that will be under him are listed under Red Wing.
Blue Wing is commanded by 1St Lt. Eviss.The ships under him are listed under Blue Wing.Green Wing will be under 1st Lt. Ladrass. It will consist of human and Laokan crews.” This was, no doubt, a concession to those humans and Laokans who felt that they worked well together. “Gold Wing will be commanded by 1st Lt. Alexander Arden.The ships under him are listed under Gold Wing.” He finished that part of his presentation and went to another part of the stage, further forward.
“We will soon be at the part of the galaxy where we will begin our mis-sion. For the first scout mission we will be in a part of space that we know a great deal about.So for that mission all wing commanders and the most experienced pilots under them will take an extra member of the crew for training purposes. You wing commanders should assign those trainees as soon as possible so that they can get to know their crewmates and the ships right away. Now I have some instructions about that flight itself.Since these are new crew members I do not want to see the uniform of the day become your underwear.”He spoke those last words sternly.Alexander Arden laughed a little at that.He knew how likely that was to happen in the easy familiarity of two man crews.You didn’t need rank insignias, and you did sometimes get called to an emergency out of a sound sleep. So there was a strong temptation to dress very casually. “Remember that you may be representing us to species that are already aware that we exist.We want to make as good an impression as possible.So take time to make sure that your trainees are properly taught.Dismissed.”
Alexander found the small alcove that served as his office. He also discovered one of the young yeomen, who was from the pool of yeomen that he would share with the other wing commanders.“Yeoman Maria Theresa Consuelo Vargas y Gonzales,” she said, giving him her full name.
“Do you have something shorter that I can call you,” Lt Arden asked.
“Yeoman Theresa Gonzales will probably do,” she said. “Every female in my family has the first
“Well, Yeoman Gonzales, I will be expecting some people in to see me soon. Would you be kind enough to direct them to the cubical for Gold Wing Commander.”
“I know where all the Wing Commanders cubicals are. I’ll direct them all,” she responded.
“Thank-you,” he told her. “That would be very helpful.”
The first one to see him was Jabin Jones. “Lt.,” he said and quickly saluted. Lt. Arden returned the salute. They had known each other so long that they did not stand much on ceremony.
“Sgt. Jones,” Lt Arden said. “I hope you don’t mind working with your old partner and roomie.”
“Not a bit,” the Sgt. said. “What ship do we have?”
“I think the ISS 497, the Grapevine will suit our purposes,” he said. The Grapevine was a scout ship.It was an atmospheric craft, made to go from the mother ship to a space station or the surface of a planet and back.Its tiles were white since it did not need the mirror brightness that reflected the cosmic rays.The Lizbet had also taken on a great many white tiles to replace any tiles on the scout ships that needed replacement.
“I’ll start checking it out right away,” the Sgt. volunteered. “By the way my wife wanted me to invite you to dinner tomorrow night. She is planning on having pot roast.”
“I’ll be happy to be there. I hear her pot roast is the best,” he promised.
“It is good,” Jabin Jones affirmed. He stood and saluted as he left.
The next person into the office was a trainee 2nd Lt. “Ensign Joseph Clear -water,” the young Native American man said.“I am a trainee.I was told that I should report to you to learn which pilot and crew I will train with.”
“Yes,” Lt. Arden said. “I am giving out assignments on a first come first served basis.You may wish you’d waited.You’re the first so I am assigning you to myself and Sgt. Jones aboard the ISS 497, the Grapevine.You may report to Sgt Jones in hangar 2 and assist him with checking the maintenance logs. A word of advice. He is a top sergeant and a man who knows
what he is doing. Better for you to show him respect and ask his advice on literally everything.”
Next Lt. Colleen Campbell came to his office. “I have worked with Sgt Christine Collins before,” she said.“We’d like to be a team again.”
“Done,” Lt. Arden informed her. “You will have the ISS 577, the Mashie.She is in hanger 2 with the rest of our ships.You may report to her when you are ready and don’t forget to check the maintaince logs and be sure that they are correct and all repairs properly made.I also see that you have 18 months experience with ships like this one.Therefore I will be assigning you a trainee. Under the circumstances I will see to it that she reports to you on that hangar deck.
Dismissed.” He no sooner said that than Sgt Collins showed up.He told her “Go with your friend, you two are a team again.”She let out a happy little shout and went with the Lieutenant.
The next person to come to his office was a trainee 2nd Lt. “2nd Lt. Coe Weston,” he said.He spoke the words in a clipped manner and had a hard look in his eyes.His physical appearance was similar to that of Lt. Arden, but smaller and thinner and he seemed to have something of an attitude.
“2nd Lt.,” Lt. Arden said, “I see that you are a trainee, but I don’t have a pilot and crew for you
yet. Why don’t you just have a seat outside for the time being.I call you when more of my pilots and crews have checked in.”
Another Trainee called in from the infirmary. “2nd Lt. Cynthia Smith reporting it sir,” She said over the comlink.“Where are you 2nd Lt.,” The Lieutenant asked. “In the Infirmary,” she said. “I had a severe allergic reaction to something my roommate made. She didn’t tell me there were onions in the recipe.”
“Who is treating you?” the Lieutenant asked.
“Colonel McInnis,” she said.
“As soon as the doctor certifies that you are fit for duty report to hangar deck 2. I’m assigning you to Lt. Campbell and Sgt. Collins.You will find them checking out the ISS 577, the Mashie.”
Then he called the hangar deck. “Lt. Campbell,” he said.“It seems that your trainee is in the infirmary.Her name is 2nd Lieutenant Cynthia Smith. You may want to make a note, when it comes to requisitionng food, no onions. Your trainee is severely allergic.”
“Will do,” she said. “But it is going to make for a lot of bland food.”
A few minutes later, just before lunch, a friend of his walked in the door, Sgt Wilmer Robbins. The man came to attention and saluted and said, “Sgt. Robbins reporting for duty.”
“Well,” Alexander said, “what a surprise. Has father seen you yet?”
“Of course he has,” the Sergeant said. “He cleared me for this duty. So who am I assigned to?”
“Well I’ve got a problem of a trainee,” Alexander said. “He might be right up your alley.Just like me when you trained me.”“Yeoman Gonzales” he said into his com-link.“Send 2nd Lt. Weston in.”When the 2nd Lt. arrived he said, “2nd Lt. Weston, I am assigning you to Sergeant
Robbins and his partner for your training. If you’ll take my advice, you’ll let the Sergeant mentor you as he mentored me when I was a trainee.I am assigning you two to the ISS 498, the Violet.”
“Aye sir,” the Sergeant said, and saluted. The 2nd Lt. saluted and went with him.
A few minutes later Alexander was inputting his assignments into the computer when someone else stopped by his cubical.
The next pilot who reported was an older man, but his rank was listed as 1st Lt. Philip Johnston.“I see that this is the second time through for you,” Alexander Arden said.“Your records indicate that you achieved the rank of Major and were bust-ed.What happened?”
“I had a difference of opinion with my commanding officer,” was all that Johnston would say. “Well if you have a difference of opinion with this commanding officer, this commanding officer will have no problem busting you for a second time,” Arden told him. “For now I am assigning you to Sergeant Wilmer Robbins and the ISS 498, the Violet.”
A few minutes later 1st Lt. Vasilly Vaschenko came to his office.“Will I have to take a trainee with me?” the Russian pilot asked.
“No,” Lt. Arden told him. “I’ve already assigned them. I’m assign-ing you to the ISS 500, the Lily. Do you have a preference for a Sergeant?”
“No,” the Lt. said.
“Then I am assigning you Sgt. Kunta Wilson,” the Lt. said.
“Shall I inform him?” the Lt. asked. “He is outside now.”
“I’ll tell him.” He spoke through the comlink, “Yeoman Gonzalez, send in Sergeant Kunta Wilson.”
When the African Sergeant entered Lt. Arden told him, “I’m assigning you to the ISS 500 and Lt. Vaschenko. Do you have any objections?”
“No sir,” the Sergeant said. “I only just met him outside.”Lt. Arden noted the assignment and said. “Report to your ship in hangar 2 deck 2. You will not have a trainee.”
Last two people came in together. They were Lt. Margaret Chen and Sgt. Martha Whitefeather.“We thought that we would be assigned together,” the Lt. said, “since we were out there all alone.We thought we would save some time and go together.
“Alright,” Lt. Arden said. “You will have the ISS 501, the Kicker.Let’s hope that it does not live up to its name. You’ll find it in hangar 2 deck 2.I’d suggest that you check it out as soon as possible.If you have any questions, there are more experienced crews checking out their ships now.They can show you the ropes.”
He went on to the job of making records of his assignments for the department logs and for the Lizbet ship logs as well as to be transmitted back to base.Everything still in triplicate according to the age-old military way of doing things.While he was doing that someone approached his cubical.“Well, well, well,” a female voice said.Alexander looked up from his work.For a moment he couldn‘t breath.“Catherine Carstairs,” he said after a minute.“What are you doing here? I don’t have you on my roster of pilots.”
A tall redheaded beauty stood in front of him, her green eyes shining like emeralds. Her hair was long and done up, controlled, he knew, by combs of an ancient earth design.“No,” she said.“I’m assigned to Red Wing.But I saw you sitting there looking so great, just the way I remember you, and I couldn’t resist dropping in.How have you been Alex?”
“Not bad, Cate,” he said. She was an old girlfriend of his.They had dated in pilots training, and there was a time when Alexander had thought of marrying her. Her voice was as delightful as he remembered. Her hair was the same red he had always found so enticing.And her figure was still great.But the service that brought them together split them up again, and it was just too hard maintaining a long distance relationship.
“Listen,” she said. “I thought that if you are not too busy here, we’d have lunch together and catch up on old times.”
“I’ve assigned pilots and crews to their ships,” he said.
“Well there is no one out here now,” she said. “And I’ve already got my ship.So why don’t we sneak off for an hour.”
She smiled. “You got a deal,” he said.“Yeoman,” he addressed Yeoman Gonzales, who was still at her desk.“I’m going to lunch.If anyone needs to see me for any reason, I will be at lunch in the O Club and then to Hangar 2 deck 2 to check out my ships.”
“Yes, sir,” Yeoman Gonzalez acknowledged. She would pass it along to her lunch relief when that person showed up.
The conversation at the O Club was easy, bourn of like experiences even if they were not together. The military had a tendency to do that.There was also the familiarity of old friends.“Have you bearded the lion in his den yet?” she asked, referring to Alexander’s father.
“As a matter of fact, I did,” Alex responded. “I had dinner with him and my sister just last night.”
“How did it go?” she asked
“Good,” he said. “There were no great harangments.I didn’t get put on KP.In fact he even apologized for some of the things that he did when we were children.”
“You must have been shocked,” she commented.
“We were.” he assured her.
The waitress who attended them had the nametag, McInnis on her. They ordered their food and she moved off to bring it.“I wonder if that’s his latest wife.” Alexander asked.
“His who?” Cate asked. She did not know the doctor.
“Colonel Jeremy McInnis, MD,” Alex answered her. “He is a friend of the family and has been up and down the aisle a lot of times.I wouldn’t be surprised if he is here with his latest wife.”
That afternoon he was in the hanger checking out his ship. “So how do you like our trainee?” he asked Jabin Jones.
“He’s alright,” the Sgt. said. “He is a bit young though.”They started work on the engine compartment. That was a complicated part of the ship, but not necessarily more important than the other systems.2nd Lt. Clearwater was on the bridge checking out some of the controls.The comlink was open and all of a sudden laughter was heard from the bridge.Lt. Arden rushed up there only to see 2nd Lt. Clearwater with a tiny ship looping the loop on his screen.He laughed as he watched it go around and around.Lt. Arden came up behind him, “That is very funny,” he said.“But if my ship does that in real life, you are going to be in such big trouble.”
“Ah-h don’t worry sir,” the 2nd Lt. stammered, surprised at being discovered.“It won’t.”
“What was he doing?” Jabin Jones asked when Arden returned to engineering. “Playing with the guidance system,” Alexander answered.They laughed then.They could both remember when they played the same games with the same systems.It was kind of fun to make the little ship loop the loop.Then it was back to work giving the engine connections and systems a thorough check.
The next morning the division commander met with his wing commanders. “You will all brief your wings on the specifics of your missions.I also want you to go over some of the experiences they may have and how they will be expected to act.Remember that these systems are believed to have planets in them that we hope are technologically advanced enough to support space travel.We hope that they will welcome us as friends, but they might not.You are to go over with your crews SOP for dealing with those situations.I have your ship and crew assignments and they are acceptable to me.Therefore you may proceed as planned.”
Alexander Arden checked with scheduling and on the bulletin boards to find out when he was scheduled to meet with his wing. He had the second of the two meeting rooms that their large meeting room broke up into two.It was schedules at 1000 the next day, which would make it about the middle of the morning, day shift.That was good, because people would be awake and alert.
That night he showed up in civvies for dinner with the Jones family. He brought a bottle of rosé wine from the ships stores.It would go with most meats or could be a good desert wine.
It was Arben who answered the door. Mareesha Jones was busy in the kitchen.
“Hello,” Arben said.
“Hello, Arben, can you tell your dad that I am here,” Alexander said.
“Yes,” Arben said, and shut the door on him. A moment later Jabin Jones opened the door.“Sorry about that,” he said, apologizing for his son.“Come on in, dinner is almost ready.”He was pleased to see that Alexander was casually dressed.
Arben Jones seemed to be bothered by something. “Is your name Arden?” he asked.His older sister Shawneesa was helping her mother set the table for five.
“Yes,” Alexander said, “why?” He suspected that he knew what the problem would be.In a moment his fears were confirmed.
“Shucks,” Arben said. “My teacher is Ms. Arden.”
“She’s my sister,” Alexander said. “And she is a good teacher.”
“I was hoping to get out of my homework because you’re here. Now I have to do it because you’ll tell her,” he said.
“No, I won’t,” Alexander promised him.
“And you still have to do your homework,” his mother said from the other room. “Supper is ready gentlemen,” she said as she put the last dish on the table.
They all came into the eating area and sat down. Jabin intoned the blessing of the food.Then they partook of the dinner.“How is your work going, Alexander?” Mareesha asked in a conversational tone.
“Well,” he said. “We’ll be launching in the next few days.”
“When,” she asked, wanting as much notice of her husband’s absence as possible.
“Don’t know exactly yet,” Alexander told her. “When we do know it will be in pilot scheduling and posted on the bulletin boards at the entrance to our section for wives and dependents to check.”
“I’ll have to learn how to do that,” she said.
“You aren’t the only one,” Alexander answered. “Most civilian dependents have to learn the drill sooner or later.”
“What do you have on the agenda for tomorrow, if I might ask?” Jabin requested.
“I get to give my standard speech about SOP for contact with races that are pre- space flight, and post- space flight,” Alexander said.
“Are you going to talk about the Abanians?” Jabin asked.
“Why not, they make a good case in point,” Alexander said.
“What about them?” Shawneesa asked.
“Well the simple explanation is that they are a race where intelligence is sexually specific. In this case they were contacted by a ship crewed by males.But the intelligent ones among their people are the females.The males act on what we call animal instinct.When they discovered that the crew members of this ship were males they became upset and there was almost a war.”
“And what about the Disams?” she asked.
“They did not meet the Disams for sometime,” her mother explained. “In fact it wasn’t until after they had joined us as our allies that this happened.”
“Now ships staffed by those two species tend to be single sex,” their father told the children. “Abanians are all female and Disams all male.”
After supper Arben asked Alexan-der, “Do you want to see my room?”
“Don’t mind if I do,” Alexander said. Arben proudly showed Lt. Arden his room.Children’s rooms under these circumstances tended to be little more than cubbyholes.His bunk took up the whole of one wall. Drawers were in the other wall for his clothing and personal posses-sions.He was encouraged to have few of those since there was little room for them.There was a fold down desk and a fold out chair in the third wall.The fourth wall he had in common with the family’s only water closet that they were allowed for the exclusive use of themselves and their guests.He also showed the Lt. his parents room, which proved to be little more than a double cubbyhole.
The next day on the bridge the nav-igators were still plotting the sys-tems that they wanted to investigate first. The com officers were still exchanging communications with the Space Ranger Central station for their sector.They would send updates on ship’s condition for as long as they could.They also sent and received communications on a priority basis.Highest ranking military first, then lower ranking military and finally civilians. If there was any kind of emergency, there was nothing the person aboard ship could do about it now.
Inter ship communications were also handled from all parts of the ship. This kept the bridge apprised of the ships condition at all times.The OOD was sitting in the commanders chair.He logged the reports as they came in.The hydro-ponic gardening 2nd Lt.’s were re-porting that they were on schedule getting everything set up and grow-ing. They would be producing food in a few days, including the Laokans dreese plant.“They will be pleased to hear that,” the OOD said.“They consider it a delicacy.”
The General came in and the OOD immediately rose to attention. “I surrender command to you,” the OOD said.He saluted.The other officers continued about their work.“Accepted,” the General said. He returned the salute and went to his office.Marcus Garvey found him there.“You know that the Lizbet will be going sublight tomorrow,” he said.
“Yes,” the General said.“You know, Marc, these transitions get harder and harder to take when you get older.”“I know,” Marc said, “but these kids need us and our experi-ence.In your day you were one of the best pilots we had and one of the best diplomats too.Look how you dealt with the Abanians.” The Gen-eral chuckled a bit at that.It had been touch and go when the Aban-ians realized that he and his partner were both male.“And you and your wing crew with the Disams.What were their names again?”“Lt. Marsha McPherson and Sgt Jane Adams,” Marc reminded him.And they put up with an awful lot.”“Yes,” Ev agreed with him. “but you man-aged to keep a war from happen-ing.Well I’d better get on the Vid and explain things to the civilians.”
He did just that, explaining that they would be braking from light to sub-light speeds. “We will also be tran-sitioning from sub-space to normal space.Everything aboard the ship, including the people had to be sec-ured for that.And I mean every -thing.The people should begin as soon as possible to secure the things that they would not be using today until the maneuver was scheduled to be completed tomorrow.This will also mean that there will be a quar-ters inspection for all personal con-ducted by the officers that are assigned that duty.Civilians should be aware that any suggestions the officer makes for changes in stowage should be done immediately.This is a matter of grave importance to the safety and security of the ship. Anything not properly secured could become a projectile and do damage to the structure of the ship.Such a thing could compromise the ability of the ship to support our life. Double check the bulletin boards to find out when you will be inspected and by whom.This is a hands-on in-spection but not a white glove in-spection.That means that the officer will check anything that looks sus-picious, so make sure everything it carefully wrapped.We don’t want anything breaking during tran-sition.”He signed off with that. Some of the things involved the people would have to learn about by experiencing it.
“Well I guess that is all I can do,” he turned to Marc and said. “They will have to learn what it is like to go through this by going through it.”“I know,” Marc said.“You think Jamie will have your quarters secured in time.”“No,” Ev Said.“She will have the school room to deal with.I’ll have to take care of the quarters. What about your misses?”
“She started on those this morning. She’s cleaning everything and putting it away.”