Tales of the Union

By Vanessa_Ravencroft All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Action

The Hearing

( This originally was to be just a short article for the Galnet wiki, but I keept writing. At the moment it is not cannon,just a What If.. short story. I might change that and include a version of this into the actual Universe but I if you read it, I hope you have as much fun as I had writing it. V.R)


The Thauran Commodore stood at the window of his office and looked over the Pacific Ocean far below. It took him a while to understand that the locals meant that orange steel construct spanning the San Francisco Bay when they talked about the bridge and not the Union bridge across the trans galactic void to the Andromeda galaxy.

Of course, after sixteen years stationed here, and having a beautiful home not far from here in the Nappa Valley he felt like a local too, even started to wear sun glasses.

He then turned and paid once more attention to his visitor, a rather unpleasant Pan Saran Rear Admiral lower half Marcus Augustus. Unlike the majority of Pan Sarans, he was not muscular or tall, but on the contrary quite short and despite all medical choices and body fitness options overweight in a flabby ungainly way.

Commodore Rabyr wondered how this man could have ever passed the Academy or graduated looking that way.

The admiral repeated his request, that made the Commodore to get up and look out the window in the first place.“Look Commodore Rabyr, I don’t care if he would even know the Admiral of the fleet himself. I want a hearing to determine a court martial. In all my life I have never noticed so many direct violations of regulations of one single captain.

And I had access only to a part of the log book. I want full access to all records and I want him before a Commission and conduct a full hearing.”

“He does know the Admiral of the Fleet and more so the Admiral knows him. Quite well I might add.”

The fat Pan Saran glared angrily .“So what, that does not give him the right to violate regulations. This entire culture of hero worship has gone way to far. Not that I believe even 10 percent of what he supposedly have done.”

“He has done that and much more, the Eternal Warrior has confirmed it.”

“That is exactly what I mean by hero worship. All these legends and myths. Don’t tell me you believe that careful maintained legend of immortal admirals. We all know it is mere propaganda for the enemies. Most likely a name bestowed on special officer controlled by NAVINT.”

Rabyr looked at the Admiral as if he was insane.“Stahl, a myth? Are you really a Union fleet officer? No I should ask: Are you a real Union citizen? ”

“Of course, and I am sick and tired of anyone telling me the same propaganda. Whenever someone mentiones this name stupid flag waving propaganda induced hero worship results. Anyone with a real brain will know that no Admiral ever fires a gun. I am sure you know plenty of those ridiculous stories of this so called hero fighting ground battles in the most dangerous situations. A real admiral of course stays away as far as possible from any possible danger. Heck even our own Emperor insists on having talked to the real Stahl. However it matters not that everyone is so gullible or perhaps not brave enough to say the truth. What matters is,that according to Fleet regulation I have the right,the very duty to demand that this so called Captain Olafson is brought before a committee of senior officers where he is confronted with his numerous offenses. Especially since I found out that he is acting captain and has never even served as an XO or spend one minute in command school. I checked his personal record at least of what was not classified beyond my clearance, he was never fully commissioned. Do I have to order you to arrest him or must I do that myself?”

The Thauran gasped.“You want him arrested? Oh you better do that yourself!”

“You are the head of Fleet Security in this sector. It is your duty to arrest him.”

“Then I want a signed order to do so,before witnesses and with all charges clearly spelled out.”

“How can I spell out all his charges. The logs are still classified and so is most of his personal records. I have requested the declassification or the adjustment of my clearance to see it all. It is just a formality of course and will be granted any moment. In the mean time I hereby order you to arrest Acting Captain, Midshipman Eric Olafson.”

The Thauran used his intercom to call for two officers and then tied in the Comutronic and said. “For the record please repeat your order.”

“Ridiculous of course, but I am not afraid of simulated legends and long dead admirals conjured up to impress the simple masses and the gullible enemies. I, Admiral Augustus of the regulations committee and record keeping division hereby request that Eric Olafson, acting captain of the USS Tigershark is arrested and put under full restraint until a hearing for his court martial can be convened.”

That the two officers looked like someone told them space wasn’t black was not unexpected but that the computronic, which was one of the most advanced systems in the known universe said.“Admiral Augustus do you feel unwell or are you using official Fleet resources to make jokes?”

The admiral glared towards the ceiling.“It appears the GalCom connection to Nelson II is faulty or this machine needs to be assessed for malfunctions. I issued a clear and precise order. I am of good health and I am an Officer. I will not be questioned by a mere machine.”

“Your order has been recorded. However I might add that the Galcom connection is perfectly fine and one functions well within all parameters.”

The admiral did not listen and said to the Thauran.“See that it is done, before this imposter tries to escape. As I understand he is on Earth and visits Norway.” He left without anyone having a chance to say anything.”

The Thauran said to the closing door. “You could teach us Thaurans what self importance really is. Even the Grand Wizard of the Kermac has nothing on you.”

To Nelson II he added.“Never mind him, everyone knows you are certainly not a mere machine.”

“Commodore Rabyr. One is not capable of being insulted, however if I would have human emotions I would feel sorry for him.”

One of the officers present was a Dai. “Yes I agree.”

The Saresii that has also been called to witness asked.” Why would you feel sorry for him? He most likely finds himself on the civilian side of life.”

The Dai shook his head. “He most likely finds himself on the other side of life. He is an officer after all.”

The Saresii still didn’t get it.

The Dai said .“If Olafson feels insulted he might challenge the man to a gentleman’s affair and I doubt he survives that one for more than a second. My tribe lords first son is Olafson’s best friend.”

The Comutronic actually laughed.“One has not computed that possibility, but it is true. One was contemplating what will happen if that Admiral was actually meeting what he believes is a insubstantial, conjured legend. If one would be curious one would wish to be present when that happens.”

Rabyr grinned.“Nelson, if I can I make it happen.”

“One would be very grateful.”

The Dai said. “I think Nelson II has a hidden but very fine sense of humor.”

“One finds the prospect of relaying such an event to Mothermachine quite stimulating. One is pleased the concept of humor is correctly processed.”

Admiral McElligott could not believe the report, considered it a joke or hoax and was angry at first that someone even dared to make a joke like that. After Nelson II however confirmed that it was quite real, he paled. “Sweet mother of God. Quick let us clear the incident before Stahl hears of it and before they have a chance to actually try to arrest Olafson. It could end in a catastrophe.”

“One must apologize, Admiral. I am simultaneous informing the Eternal Warrior.”

McElligott cursed like a true highlander and then paused in his anger. “Connect me with Stahl.”

The Admiral of the Fleet looked into the face of the other immortal admiral. Stahl was wearing a heavy destroyer suit sans helmet standing before a background of smoldering ruins and a deep red sky. Elligott rolled his eyes.“You can’t stay away from the front lines. You are not a marine grunt, your an admiral.”

“I have always been a marine first and foremost and I have never ceased to be a grunt. It is the front lines where the war happens, not in some cozy super secure command center light years away from the action. Now we had a rough time taking this system. The Warog are as tough as they come and they don’t give up easily, but that battle we just fought is nothing compared to the shit storm your personal inquisitor, that sorry excuse of a Union officer is about to raise. You know what I said when you promoted that pile of flabby dough to admiral rank.”

“I resented what you said then as I do now. He did a very thorough job in enforcing our regulations. Only by strict adherence to regulations can we hope to run the Navy as it must be run.”

Stahl snorted disgusted. “You don’t even buy that line. What about regulation 74075-PF? How did that sack of fat manage to get past the physical fitness requirement?”

“Officers of admiral rank are exempt from this regulation. You are the only Admiral insisting training with boot camp marines.”

“So you tell me that thing you call an admiral was a picture of fitness until he became an admiral? Well I am done hearing your sad excuses for questionable personnel decisions.”

“I am still your superior and I resent being ridiculed by you. Now how we are going to deal with the situation? I want you to call Captain Olafson and make sure he is not reacting the wrong way, while I try to stop Admiral Augustus before it even comes to that.”

Now Stahl grinned. “Oh we are doing it exactly by the book. You told me just a month ago that this so called Admiral was empowered by you to scrutinize command officers and make sure they followed all rules and regulations. You also ordered me to stay out of it, Admiral Sir. Besides I already received a priority one summon from said Admiral to appear at said hearing.”

McElligott swallowed hard.“I will of course order him to disregard that and remove him from office. Now you need to help. Olafson could summon his alter ego and that could very well cause some damage before we can contain him. He is on Earth!”

“Contain him? Have you not heard the Narth Supreme. There is no force in the Universe that could stop him. However he gave me his word that he is still an Officer and Union citizen and that is all I need to know. Oh and if you stop that summon you need the Assembly to do that as it was you who gave him federal investigative authority. Doing it without it is not just a breach of regulations and I will be the first summoning you to the Assembly so you can explain to them.”

McElligott never really liked Stahl, but he knew if he summoned him to the Assembly not even the Grey Ghosts could save him. There was no denying it, Stahl was easily the most beloved and respected person in all Union history.

While he was the Admiral of the Fleet and had the highest military command authority, he had no illusions that ninety percent of the fleet would follow Stahl if he asked them to and of course every marine active, reserve or retired and most of the Union would cheer him doing it. Luckily Stahl was integrity incarnate and would never do that. He angrily terminated the connection.

After a moment staring at the blank field screen he barked at the computronic. “Nelson II , why are you addressing me correctly and call Stahl by this ridiculous nickname? You are a machine for Christ’s sake”

“One has access to the entire service history of Admiral Stahl and one finds this a very befitting title.”

“It’s not a title. He is an admiral nothing more.”

“Bellebee research concluded that this epithet was first used by editors of the Galactic Chronicle after the successful defeat of the Y’All invasion. The term was also used by Mothermachine and made into an official title by request of Queen T’Snikk before the Assembly in 3912. It might interest you that this request was passed within ten minutes of standing ovation and with a rare one hundred percent approval. It could be argued that this is neither a nickname nor ridiculous.”

It was perhaps the strangest arrest in Union history, after six heavy armed flyers deposited an entire platoon of Marines at the Atlantic beach near Hammerfest where Captain Olafson in swimming trunks exited the ice cold water and the rows of marines stood in attention while the Marine Commander saluted him. “Sir, I am proud it is me who has the honor of arresting you!”

The Neo Viking fleet officer looked completely baffled.“You are proud to do what?”

“Sir Admiral Augustus has ordered you to be arrested and brought before a hearing so you may be charged with commanding a space ship without proper commission and infractions against several fleet regulations. Not to worry ,Sir.”

Still confused the captain said.“I am arrested by an entire Marine platoon in full battle dress, a full regiment of Cerberus on charges that make no sense and I should not be worried?”

“Sir, the Admiral of the Fleet is on his way from Arsenal furious about what happened, he wanted to order your immediate release and deal with the affair a different way, but the Eternal Warrior currently at the very front in the Killgor system is summoned to this very same hearing and to be arrested if he does not asked me to convey this personal message: Play along, I want this to be the rope a certain kilt wearing fool hangs himself. Sir, these are exactly his words. ” The marine was quite angry as he said that. “Admiral Stahl also said he will comply and he assured us you will too.” Then he pointed to the robots and armed flyers. “Admiral McElligott was not so sure and wanted us to take precautions. On a personal note, my marines and I are here to have the honor to meet you.”

Eric raised an eyebrow. Admiral Stahl was threatened to be arrested? Summoned from the front during a war?”

“As a marine I am not allowed to criticize command.” He took off his rank insignia and then said. “As a citizen however I can. McElligott wanted to enforce the rules and set an example by scrutinizing a few high ranking or famous officers. To show the Assembly that he is in command and not Stahl. It backfired and I personally can’t wait for that hearing.”

Eric rolled his eyes and held out his hands. “Handcuffs or prisoner suit?”

“Neither one,Sir. You are not judged yet and your word is as good to me as that of Admiral Stahl.”

“You just used the only restraints that could hold me, Commander. Can I get dressed?”


Admiral Augustus was not sure if he liked the way the affair developed. He wanted the hearing done with hand picked Officers and inside a military court room. While he still had the officer he selected chair the hearing with him; and while it was still inside the impressive and imposing central court room of fleet command Earth. It was simulcast to the Assembly and thus to the general public.

He specifically ordered the computronic to issue gag orders to all involved. What he had overlooked is that he did not include the cursed Computronic.

“Nelson II, I specifically requested gag orders. This proceedings were to be held in military fashion and not become a public circus. What do the simple civilians know of military proceedings? This order was including you!” He fumed and added .“You are disobeying direct orders given! I will therefore order your deactivation and have you replaced with a machine that obeys.”

Admiral Augustus was certain he detected the amused tone in the AIs voice.

“You requested that any person and member of the Union spatial navy associated with this case is to be gagged of discussing any details with non spatial fleet personnel. One, as you pointed out is a machine. One is not a member of the Union spatial navy and neither are the United Stars marines, the Union Army members or the thirty four thousand seventy three civilian clerks that are aware of this case. Furthermore you were appointed by recommendation of the Admiral of the Fleet to be a special investigator and prosecutor in cases of gross misconduct and violation of Navy rules and regulations by Navy personnel. I am by definition technical equipment and you have no authority to order my deactivation. I may add this is a violation of regulation 17221 and could be considered an act of attempted sabotage of Navy equipment essential to the war effort.”

Augustus paled and hastily added.” This was no order just a test and is to be ignored and deleted.”

Nelson happily chirped. “On March 5th,5052 at 0922 hrs Admiral M. Augustus conducted an unauthorized test on Fleet Main Computronic and then ordered the results of the test to be ignored and deleted. Test results deleted.”

Augustus was now satisfied that this episode was erased. He who prosecuted others for misconduct could not be accused of breaking the rules himself. Thankfully when a Computronic deleted something, it was gone.


The court room was indeed impressive and usually used in the very rare times when a star ship captain was accused of very serious matters. In the almost 3000 years of Union fleet history only a very small number was ever convicted stripped of their rank and command and their names placed in the hall of shame.

Admiral Augustus planned to fill that place with many names and foremost this ensign impostor who commanded a star ship, had the audacity of conscripting non Union aliens without the proper authority and even hanging a man. Only a fully commissioned Captain was allowed to do all these things. Not a midshipman who never even had the rank of ensign and was made acting captain for three days and then disappeared only to reappear in 5048 still as acting Captain. No acting rank was viable for that many years.

He had the personnel file of Olafson and log book of the USS Tigershark before him. Both documents were filled with much data. Yet he was only able to access perhaps ten percent at most.

Finally his priority call to the Admiral of the Fleet was answered. “Admiral McEligott you had the wisdom to appoint me to this task. Now how can I do my job, if I can’t access all evidence to this most appalling case of misconduct in all Union Fleet history?

How did this criminal Midshipman manage to have his files classified Blue-Blue-Red and sections of it are even sealed Red-Red-Red. I did not even know this level existed?”

“I intended for you to find a few of those commanding officers that tend to command by the ill example set by Admiral Stahl, to set the record straight that this Navy is run orderly and by rules. I never thought you would find Olafson. You could not have picked a more dangerous and problematic case.”

“It was the most read log book in the entire record department. Despite that most of it was classified how could I not take notice. Besides I take my task very serious. I waited for decades that someone would notice my unwavering devotion to rules and order. You have, but make no mistake, it was your recommendation but it was the military council of the Assembly who appointed me. Now I request you clear my access and once I am done burring this midshipman and unmask this phony propaganda projection called Stahl. I intend to ask why you find it acceptable to prance around in a skirt while on duty. I checked, you never made the formal request to wear a non official issue of garment while on duty. Furthermore you have not logged your office hours. This is a clear violation of regulation 877705-4.”

“Prance around in a skirt?” Was all the old Admiral could say. His plan to clip Stahl’s wing a little was born out of an old grudge McElligott had against the other immortal admiral. It had taken him almost a decade to even find an officer who wasn’t impressed by Stahl. He found Augustus, one of the last graduates of the old Newport Academy while it was still under Dent. He had him investigated and found no links to the worm. Augustus was even disliked by most of his cadets there and failed every specialization except administrative tasks and there in the regulations department he excelled and was described as a rules fanatic who could remember and quote thousands of regulations down to the comma.

When he first met him in his office, he had even the visitor chairs placed exactly as the Navy recommended.

He disregarded the psych report that strongly advised Augustus never to be in any command position. Several evaluators even suggested him to be expelled from the Navy. He was accepted by exactly one point over the refusal threshold.

Now in retrospect, it was the most regrettable decision he made in his life. He of all beings should have known that personal feelings and misgivings had no place in any professional matters.

It all culminated only a few months ago. The Nul of all were now not only allies but Union members. The Karthanian First Engineer had applied for Union membership in the name of all Karthanians. All but one Oghr kingdom was either Union or in the process of becoming Union. The new White Queen of Togar appeared nine months ago before the Assembly. She apologized for any harm and grief her kind caused and asked for Union membership. It all of course happened by the direct actions of Captain Olafson. When he discovered the Y’All foundry in the Leo II galaxy and indisputable proof that it was the Kermac who called them each time,the Assembly called for war. It also became known that the Kermac used the remaining Dai and the Shiss to attack the Union. On these revelations the Assembly overwhelmingly called for war.

It took all of Elligotts influence to not declare Total war. For it would make Stahl the Commander in Chief over all Union military. Making him obsolete in the process. That Stahl would win the war, there was no doubt, would he use his position to remain the Commander in Chief even after the war was over? While deep down he knew Stahl had no political ambitions at all; he was almost certain the Assembly would offer it to him. Most of the Assembly and almost everyone in the Union worshiped the man.

There was a public poll not so long ago, conducted by a very popular GalNet channel to name ten things every Union citizen is proud of and Number one was citizenship. Number two the Assembly;three was the Fleet and trillions of votes elevated the Eternal Warrior solid on spot four. Even the Devi was much higher up than McElligott who found his name at rank 4755 even far below Rex Schwartz and just one ranking above Ultra Kling Klang. He wasn’t surprised that Mothermachine was among the top ten, but to find himself below the Gray Nul monarch and even the just recently admitted First Engineer was a blow to his ego and made him take steps to realize the plan he never really intended to initiate.

His usual meticulous planning was hampered by hurt pride.

The events of the awakening of an entity called the Dark One diverted his attention and he missed seeing some serious flaws of his plan.

Not that he really understood what it was. The Narth Supreme, Mothermachine,the Coven and other members of the Gray Ghosts spoke of the most significant and potential galaxy shattering event. Captain Olafson again was at the very center. Stahl told him that Eric and Erica were now two completely different persons. He spoke about the reincarnation of an entity with the power to change the very fabric of reality.

Narth Supreme said the Decision was made and it was made for the Third Way. Elligott had no idea what this meant but he was no fool. He instinctively knew this was the very reason he and the other immortals were preparing for. The Narth Supreme also said that the age of entities had ended. The Universe was once more in balance and the indigenous life of this universe would eventually evolve into its own new entities and ring in the next universe.

Now robbed of his part in whatever universe shaking event, the purpose of his task as immortal fulfilled without him having much to do with its culmination. He felt cheated and angry.

The final blow to his ego came as he asked the Narth Supreme if he thinks that his task had been completed and the shrouded super intellect simply said: Yes.

When he asked if Stahl’s task was also done, the Narth said.“No, the Eternal Warrior is the only force that can contain the Dark One. In essence Admiral Stahl is the most powerful being alive. With a word alone he could ask the Dark One to rip galaxies asunder and there is no doubt the Dark One would obey.”

This was to much. He set his plan in motion. He promoted Augustus to Admiral rank and asked the Assembly military council to activate an old almost forgotten council decision to appoint am inspector general in order to inspect the Union fleet personnel and find command officers who broke rules and circumvented regulations. The council approved his request and made Augustus that inspector. He instructed the Admiral to check the log book archive and search for commanders that were selected by Stahl especially.

That the uncorked the bottle and let the proverbial evil genie out of the bottle was of course not part of the plan.

Augustus still glared at him and then said.“I am still waiting for the clearance.”

“You are hereby granted to begin the clearing process that will give you access.”

“The full clearing process for Blue-Blue-Red will take six month. I request emergency clearance outlined in general order 666 and regulation 53840 which grants high clearance in cases of emergency.”

“Then you also know that you must state that emergency to the Assembly security council.”

“I already tried twice. They laughed at me. You or the Commandant of the NAVINT have the same emergency power. I repeat my demand!”

“Admiral Augustus since you can not provide me with a emergency reason why you should be granted access. I again refer you to the standard clearing process.”

Augustus became angrier by the minute. “I need to prepare for the case and the files are sealed.”

“There is no time frame or date you must meet to prosecute Olafson.”

“Yes there is. I already arrested Olafson and must prosecute and commence the hearing within 48 hours.”

“That was a premature decision of yours and does not constitute to a matter of Union security which is the only requirement I need to grant you your request.”

“Admiral McElligott you wanted me to produce results. My Assembly mandate ends in 6 month.”

“Exactly.”

Augustus terminated the call and asked the system to connect him with the commandant of NAVINT.

“I am sorry Sir, your security clearance is not sufficient to obtain that information. Please contact your superior officer or file for clearance procedures according to ...”

He actually hit the terminal to end the call and said to the picture of Captain Olafson that was on top of the file display. “No matter. I have enough information here to have you hanged.”


Admiral Augustus entered the court room after he had the system announce him as special high commissioner to the Assembly Military council and walked behind the center of the raised desk. A huge field screen to the side displayed the images the cam bots recorded and transmitted to the Assembly. One of the bots focused on his ribbon display. It was glaringly empty with the exception of the Plebes Dot.

The bot then turned and focused on Olafson’s display. While only fellow officers recognized some of the decorations. Almost everyone ,even civilians recognized the three Medals of Honor. There were maybe a handful of beings watching the proceedings on Galnet that could identify the strange metal object in a leather holster under his left arm. Behind Olafson sat a tall handsome Dai with Commander rank on his collar. Highly decorated as well with two swords added to his dress uniform.

A stunning blonde with the platinum symbol of the Hive of Minds chief among her decorations. She too wore a sword across her back.

Almost every Saran recognized Princess Elfirata and were surprised and proud at the same time to see her wear fleet uniform and also being a Lt. Cmdr.

The shrouded Narth also sitting behind Olafson wore rank insignia of a and a ribbon display attached. That the Narth had become an active member of the Union was no longer news, to see one on active Union fleet duty however was.

Many light years distant the immense Assembly became quiet. More and more representatives paid close attention. A stocky massive looking human with intricate tribal tattoos and a very tall black man next to him, appeared normal and tiny compared to the gigantic Saturnian. He was big even compared to his own kind.

A whisper of surprise rose from the watching audience as the camera panned on a terrifying Y’All warrior. The Y’All was talking quietly to a X101.

Next to the centmac also a was big empty gap. The cam bot pulled back to focus on an Archa scurrying down the isle holding a tray with icecream cones.

Even the now quiet Assembly on Pluribus was erupting in laughter as the huge spider being made an apologizing gesture and meekly said.“Sorry for being late, but there was an ice cream vendor outside.”

The Archa found his place and the camera panned to a stern looking woman with short hair in the Uniform of a fleet medical officer. Almost everyone recognized the All white new Queen of the Togar. To see her also wearing Fleet medical uniform created a murmured buzz. The same buzz increased to see a gray Nul in Navy black. The Nul representative at the Assembly bowed deeply and so did the Nul in attendance.

Almost everyone recognized the bronze skinned bald headed dwarf like humanoid. It was Sodoby the Golden, retired leader of his people and second in personal wealth only to Rex Schwartz. That he wore Navy black and displayed the rank of Lt became instant news.

As the camera focused on a Holdian sitting on the shoulders of a gigantic dark brown golem like being no one could identify the species, the Holdian members of the attending audience chirped and chattered excited, especially as the furry Lieutenant talked uninhibited to the largest male Togar anyone had seen. This cat like being very much looked like a lion with an impressive mane.

No one could explain why a black uniform was sitting all by itself as if worn by an invisible person was apparently in some kind of conversation with a whisp of green vapor.

The onlookers were unsure if the female shaped chromed being with long tinsel like hair was a X101 of a series no one knew or a modified Stellaris.

The second row behind this even for the diverse Union unusual collection of beings was no less amazing.

A spotted Attikan in Marine uniform. Two Pertharians also Marine officers. A Non Corp leaning forward talking to the Nul. There were two Mini Terrans floating on a hover disc above the chair. A humanoid being without a head. A huge maggot like creature riding on it between the shoulders. Disturbingly the thing had eyes where the nipples of a human would be. A young girl with huge eyes and a petite red head seemed almost out of place in this collection of strange beings.

Admiral Augustus reached his seat without anyone paying any attention to him. He banged his gavel while he was still standing. “This hearing is now in session. I will not tolerate this event to become a circus and I fail to see the reason why this assortment of creatures is sitting behind the accused. I requested the crew of the Tigershark to be in attendance and all I see is fr.. I mean beings in uniform.”

The Marine commander responsible for the seating arrangement said. “Admiral Sir, this is the crew of the USS Tigershark.”

A new voice powerful and full of authority came from the entrance door.“Am I to understand you disapprove of certain beings wearing uniform?”

Everybody turned. Admiral Stahl and a silver haired woman wearing a black cat suit with only a small pin in the shape of a brain on her collar, had entered the room. He wore a black uniform with out any decorations except five golden stars on each side of his collar and Admiral’s Gold on his sleeves.

Augustus stood and pointed his gavel at the man. “I will hold you in contempt, Mister. You can’t simply come in here and interrupt important meetings. Who are you anyway?”

“I am Admiral Richard Stahl. It was you who summoned me here. I was busy fighting a war so I hope you excuse me for being a few minutes late.”

“You can’t be. According to my information the Officer acting under that propaganda name received my summons over 4000 light years away. Not even the fastest ship could make it. Impersonating a fleet officer is bad enough, wearing some sort of costume that is not even close to any fleet regulation uniform is an insult. Marines arrest this man and remove him from the room, so we may finally get started.”

McElligott who was present wished for a hole he could hide in.

Even Stahl was obviously surprised by that response.

Historians commonly agree that this was the moment you could hear a pin drop at the Assembly.

From Pluribus the Speaker of the Assembly spoke into the silence. “Admiral Augustus this is Admiral Stahl. There is no propaganda, no officer acting. ”

Augustus was not as self assure anymore.“How can he be? He is supposedly 4000 light years away?”

completely ignoring Augustus, Stahl looked directly at McElligott. You picked this idiot to prosecute me? To think I respected you once seems foolish now.”

“I am still in charge by Assembly mandate. I demand you address me and provide proof that you are indeed Admiral Stahl.”

Stahl raised his voice. “System identify and verify my identity.”

“Implant and DNA scan complete. Individual identifies as Stahl, Richard. Service number 02-S-01. Birthday October 18th , 2054. Rank Admiral,curr..”

Augustus interrupted the machine.“I accept this. It does not explain how you can be here, unless there are more than one of you. It also does not explain why you did not adhere to regulation 9874-43 where it clearly states that officers on duty must wear fleet approved attire. Neither your boots nor your sun glasses are, but this is the least of your infractions. I will deal with you later so find a seat and witness what happens to a vile impostor and reflect on your own failings.”

“That’s why I came. I would not want to miss this for the world. The only thing I regret that I won’t have a chance dealing with you.” Stahl grinned towards McElligott, but there is someone else I will express my deepest gratitude before this is over.”

The audience started to giggle, McElligott started to wonder if suicide was perhaps not such a bad alternative and Augustus needed several gavel bangs to silence the room.

He then held a PDD and pointed with it towards Olafson.“In my hand I hold the logbook of the USS Tigershark and a copy of this man’s service record. I have never read a bigger collection of lies and contradictions. This man has never graduated the academy. He sits there displaying more citations than 100 officers could accumulate in five lifetimes. For some unexplainable reason he was made acting captain of a ship that did not even have a hull number. It can only be explained that he was perhaps tested or evaluated. Instead of returning to be a midshipman he falsified his personal records and simply signed as Captain Erica Olafson. It appears he confused the system with this rather crude change of his name. I might add that there are no records of a Erica Olafson ever to graduate from the Academy. No such person has ever served as an XO or went to command school. No Eric or Erica Olafson was ever presented to the fleet commission to be tested and grilled by real captains. While I was denied to access the classified section of this log book, most likely to protect the names of officers in the personnel department for overlooking this grave error. I can give you plenty of examples of the criminal activity of this man. He managed to remain at this command for nearly thirty years. Let me remind you that you can’t be an acting captain for even a year. All an acting captain can do is steer to the next fleet base and be relieved of command, face a hearing why he became acting captain in the first place and hope his conduct was good enough that he might get invited to command school.”

He stared at Olafson .“Answer me with the truth if you have even one shred of dignity left. Did you ever go to command school?”

“No.”

“Have you ever been an ensign?”

“No.”

“What was your rank before you decided to be an acting Captain?”

“Midshipman.”

Augustus glared with a triumphant expression into the cam bot optics.“He is caught. Exposed! He can’t even try to spin some lies! All this is grounds enough for a court martial with a life sentence to the harshest stockade we have, but this despicable individual killed many times and even hanged a real officer. He ordered the destruction of a Barracuda destroyer and authorized the use of a P Bomb. All this he did while operating the ship in Free Space. Spatial navigation data confirms he violated a treaty and could have caused war!

He committed acts of piracy and it appears he was in direct contact with the wanted pirate Black Velvet. There are hundreds of log book recordings mentioning her name.”

He paused for effect.“I hereby demand that the Assembly orders the declassification of both documents and further request that no court martial but an assembly decision to put him to death is to be the outcome of this hearing. I now open the hearing for examination. ”

“The unseen speaker of the Assembly said.“Trillions of citizens are now following this hearing and we have many thousand citizen requests regarding this. If all is indeed the case I must fully agree with you. The accused has so far confirmed all your allegations. I hereby request that this hearing is now a direct Assembly investigation and we will discuss and vote appropriate actions at its conclusion.”

All objections he had for the Assembly to listen in had evaporated. At this moment he was at the very focus of the entire Union. No one was more important than him, this was what he was born for. Yes after this,he would become Admiral of the Fleet there was no doubt.

He thanked the Assembly for making the right decision and repeated his demand to unseal the documents.

Before the speaker could ask the Assembly by vote to do exactly that. The Saresii representative asked to speak.
“Members of the Assembly, citizens of the Union. I am Alegar Moansti and chairperson of the security council. I know the full content of both documents.”
Alegar bowed gracefully and then began to address the Assembly and through it every citizen that listened. At this point historians again agree, over eighty percent of all Union citizens followed the events unfolding. It was later declared to be one of the most watched Assembly sessions of all times.
“The United Stars of the Galaxies is an open and free community where every citizen has fundamental rights and where the Citizen are the government. Where the power comes from the people and where representatives are employees of Citizens and not rulers or leaders.
This simple yet powerful frame work, this very foundation of our society was put into place by four civilizations and has since been adopted and accepted by almost five thousand civilizations today.
This very Assembly is a direct expression of that.
In order to create a safe and free society it was also recognized that a society must have secrets that needed to be protected from outside forces that do not share our values.
It was agreed by this very Assembly that it is imperative to maintain an intelligence and counter intelligence force and organizations.
This was a dilemma right from the start. Posed by the necessity of keeping secrets. The fundamental rule that the Union must always adhere to higher moral standards and be accountable to its citizens was debated for a very long time during the creation of this Union.
The second amendment to the Union Constitution clearly states that: No one and nothing is above the laws ratified by the Body of all Assembly members.
Yet in order to function and keep the wolfs at bay. Secret services cannot always adhere to laws and morals.
Secrets were kept by the military and an intelligence committee attached to the state department and high ranking officials such as the president and members of the Conference,
However the Peace Hawk incident and the Kermac president chaos showed that this system was very flawed. The office of the president was stripped of all military connections and has since then completely eliminated.
Since the Assembly is an open affair that is accessible to all Citizens and therefore also for potential spies, it was decided to have certain issues pertaining to military and secret services discussed by a selected panel of Assembly representatives.
To address this issue a simple solution was found. Not experts, but you the citizens, should decide. A Union wide discussion was held and the Assembly called for a general vote.
The result of this vote was the creation of a Union security council that would have access to all secrets, evaluate them and then representing the results of their findings without the classified details to the Assembly to vote on.
To make sure this Security Council did not become an unlawful elite, it was decreed that the members of this council could serve no longer than three years. That a random process picks new members out of a pool of suitable candidates. That any citizen representative or not could apply to be part of this pool. Only three requirements are needed to become a suitable member. Full citizenship, a minimum level of cognitive comprehension and a very detailed background check for the necessary security clearance.
After becoming a member of the Security Council a code name and number is added to the CITI. The new council member receives two months of schooling,is checked by the PSI corps and must complete a psycho evaluation. No security council member knows the identity of another member to prevent intimidation or voting by peer pressure.
This council selects 180 of them,once every week and form the The Covered committee It is done so there is always an active committee present.
They discuss sensitive Fleet, intel and military issues, discuss sensitive information with members of the intelligence community,vote on issues and then as you all know advise the Assembly without going into specifics.
Still there are issues that require even a higher level of security and secrecy. Like the secret of our Translocator cannons.
The Covered Committee suggested the creation of a small group of individuals that are beyond reproach. The Assembly agreed with this and authorized the formation of this group that became known as the Gray Ghosts.
Everyone in the Assembly knows they exist and the lawfulness of that group has been ratified last only a week ago. Who the Gray Ghosts are is perhaps the most guarded secret of the Union.”
Alegar paused. “I am, or better I was one of them and authorized to reveal this fact as I am now officially retire from this group. ”
He paused but there was not a single sound in the entire Assembly.
However Admiral Augustus was neither impressed nor very interested.“It is all quite fascinating to a few, I am sure. However I fail to see the connection to this case. This is not some Assembly session where certain members waste the time of others with insubstantial stories. We are here to find the accused criminal guilty and hang him. So I can continue my important task to clean our fleet from this accumulated filth, punish all guilty and show you how a fleet is supposed to be led. Speaker of the Assembly I repeat my request and call for an decision to expose these documents or even better a guilty vote.”
The Speaker of the Assembly said.“While it is rude and impolite, the Admiral has a point. Please make your point to the issue at hand or I must call for the requested vote.”
Alegar said .“Captain Olafson acted under direct orders of Fleet command. His appointment and course of actions was recommended by the Gray Ghost, discussed and voted on by the Covered committee and presented as Operation Fish to the Assembly. The Assembly approved the operation.”
Augustus puffed his fat cheeks. “That means nothing. The fact remains that a Midshipman acted almost 30 years as Captain, committed crimes, conducted piracy, conspired with criminals chiefly the never caught pirate Black Velvet. Wanted for murder, piracy and slave trafficking. He operated in a Union Ship in Freespace. He killed and murdered, sabotaged and destroyed Fleet equipment. He conspires with known enemies. Page 6674 of his log book states that he allowed a Nul aboard his ship, and not as prisoner. The Nul were our enemies back then just to remind you.
He even has a Y’All among his crew. There are no Y’All Union citizens.
Olafson signs most of his log book entries as Erica, clearly he is not female. Falsifying names in log books is a serious offense.
But perhaps the most heinous secret of his is that he is the actual owner of Alvor’s Cove. He writes in the log to be the Local Lord of this notorious slave planet. It has only been cleansed by the fleet a year ago.”
The Pan Saran Representative, got up. Unlike Augustus he looked every inch like a Pan Saran and that he wore mirror polished breastplate was a clear sign he had served in the military. “Admiral Augustus. These are indeed the most serious allegations I have ever heard, but allegations they are until exposed as facts or dismissed as false.”
Augustus interrupted the Pan Saran representative.“No wonder we get nowhere, when civilians keep interrupting just to state already known facts. I want you to open these records so I can show you the extend of his crimes.”
The Pan Saran Representative stemmed his fists into his hips. “And you must have slept while they discussed the Assembly at Union School. You made a request and we will vote on it, after we asked all questions. Also I am a Civilian now, but I am Captain Gaius Brutus and served the Union and the Fleet for sixty eight years. Further you interrupted me before I was able to complete my question.”
“So you are a retired Captain. Sixty Eight years and not promoted, maybe you sympathize with this impostor and consider that so called Eternal Warrior a role model. Perhaps I need to call your service record too after I am done with this one. I am only 48 and thanks to my adherence to rules and strict adherence to regulations I was recognized and made Admiral, think about that before you interrupt and try to stall the declassification of these documents.”
Brutus gasped and then said to the assembly.“He must have taken lessons from the Kermac, he certainly is not acting like a Pan Saran.”
Augustus snapped angrily. “Sit down, your observations and insults are not substantial. Speaker call for the Vote.”
Brutus did not sit down.“There won’t be a vote until all, including my question is answered. I am asking why have you arrested Captain Olafson. If you do not have all the facts your investigation is not complete. Since it clearly shows you have enough evidence to order his arrest and thus this hearing enough you do not need to have unrestricted access in my opinion. The fleet does not classify documents without a reason. I vote to deny you access.”
Brutus smiled as he saw the many nodding heads and the angry face of Augustus.
The Speaker said. “This is a valid question and no vote can be called as long as it remains open.”
His tone became even angrier.“I arrested this man because I had reason to believe he would try to escape. Yes I have more than enough to prosecute but I want all his crimes exposed.”
The Blue representative said.“Logic then dictates that you prosecute with what you have and once he is found guilty he can be held until the rest is properly investigated and added to his charges. You then have the needed time to file for the necessary clearances. I too find it to risky to expose potential military secrets so highly classified to everyone. I too recommend denying the request.”
The Boloth representative asked.“You asked for the defendants death,so you must have enough already to convince us this is indeed the fitting punishment. You can not ask for a more severe punishment even if he committed more crimes so what difference does it make. You convict him, he receives the most severe punishment there is and pays for all his crimes and military secrets stay save. I too recommend to decline this request.
When Mothermachine spoke everyone fell silent. “I know the full document and I can not find any crimes, but I do not ask you to simply take my word for it. Have the Security Council read the classified part and have them decide if we can indeed declassify them in public or not. At the same time they can scrutinize them for any crimes.”
“Unacceptable, who knows how long this committee needs to read these big documents. It could take month.”
“Then by your own argument it will take you time to read them and analyze them. Certainly more than 48 hours. Opening the documents will end this hearing as you must scrutinize it all. You argued that you want to expose all his crimes,correct?”
Mothermachine’ s logic cornered him and now if he got his wish granted. Eric would go free as he arrested him and already called for a hearing. Normally he could still ask for a court martial but that would take month and he was no longer sure they extended his mandate, but all this was mood as he called for an Assembly verdict and nothing but death was more final than that.“No I do not need to have the documents declassified. I indeed have enough.”
He focused his attention back on the accused and found Olafson sleeping. “Midshipman Olafson, attention!”
The Neo Viking streched his arms and lazily crossed his legs.
“I called you to attention and expect you to comply. Even a Midshipman knows that.”
“And I expected you to salute me when I came in, even an Admiral knows that.”
“Salute you, a midshipman about to be stripped of all ranks and convicted? Don’t make it worse than it already is. Making me angry is not advisable.”
“Making it worse than being threatened with the death penalty? But let me educate you Admiral April. According to regulation 1412. General Orders. Medal of Honor recipients are to be greeted with full military honor, regardless of rank. I got three of these, my XO has one and so does almost every member of my crew. Yet you ignored them. One could think that you are best buddies with us and we all asked you to forgo this regulation mandated courtesy, but then I am pretty sure no one following this is under that particular impression. I think you convinced even the Camogi that you and I are not exactly friends and they are still somewhat confused when it comes to human interaction. So one could almost think you disregarded a very straight forward and quite important regulation?
Narth leaned forward.“I am certain he ignored it. The possibility he has any positive sentiment towards you is rather astronomic and sensing your feelings towards him makes me dismiss the first possibility altogether.”
Har Hi kept his arms crossed. “He probably never seen a real medal in the first place. I bet our Shail could outpace him without his hover sled.”
The accused Neo Viking casually conversed with his friends, while most of the Union was listening in.
Augustus fumed. “I am the one who conducts the investigation and asks questions. I am not going to greet an Impostor with decorations he obtained under false pretense.”
“Are my shipmates accused?”
“Not yet!”
“Then you failed to greet them. Now to accuse me of obtaining any military decoration under false pretense is a serious insult but declaring that the Medal of Honors were so obtained is an attack on my honor and once this is over I will challenge you to a duel and you better be there because I assure you you would not see me real angry!”
“You have no honor!”
“All I heard are accusations. I give you ten more minutes to back your claims with proof or I am leaving.”
Augustus laughed.“You are leaving nowhere but to the gallows. Move and I have the marines restrain or shoot you.”
Stahl gave Eric a pleading look and Eric relaxed.
“Who made you Acting Captain?”
“For what ship?”
“What ship? Are there more?”
“Yes, the USS Devastator and the Tigershark”
Augustus laughed.“You don’t help your case if you ridicule me. Everyone knows Captain Harris was her Captain at that time. Nelson access Devastator log book files and check if Olafson was ever even near that ship.”
Stahl could barely contain his snickering. McElligott had lost all hope.
Nelson II chirped happily.“Captain Eric Olafson served his Midshipman year aboard the USS Devastator and was her Acting Captain as part of the rare but Fleet Command approved Command ability test.”
Augustus and quite a few observers dropped their chins.
“Admiral Stahl, were you aware of this? The ship is in your fleet!”
“I ordered the big test and Captain Olafson uncovered a munition theft ring, prevented a Kermac PSI Spore attack and defeated a full Dai Tribe while he commanded her. Earning him the Orion Cross for doing it.

“That this Navy needs serious restructuring and a purge of senile leadership becomes very apparent. The Assembly will be grateful to me exposing this lunacy, but that is subject to another hearing I am going to demand. How do you explain giving a Midshipman command over our largest ship,putting thousands of lives at risk?”

Stahl was no longer amused, McElligott disliked Stahl but he knew him for a very long time and actually wondered when he would finally erupt. He prayed to all saints he knew that there was at least a light year distance between him and Stahl. From the looks of it only the direct intervention of God could make that happen and not very likely.

Stahl took a very deep breath and said. “Only my devotion to law and order restrains me from doing what I want to do know. It is the first time in my life I actually considering breaking it and your neck right after it. The Assembly gave you the power to summon me and that is the reason I am here. If the Assembly comes to the conclusion that I am not fit to do my job, I will hand in my immediate resignation. For now I will answer your questions. Testing the command ability of a young officer is part of the process to find Captains. Every commanding officer will have to make life and death decisions. Not just for him but for every soul under his or her command. To this day there is no known method to teach that. It has to be there from the start. The Academy process uses constant tests, from the very first day to the last to filter out those who are not meant to command. It uses thousands of scenarios and tests. To expose an untested young officer to a very real unexpected situation where real decisions must be made is a time tested and approved method to do so. My decision to test Midshipman Olafson and others before him is actually part of Command school. Hands on field experience in real situations are far superior to any simulated tests.

Like others before him, Olafson showed to have this natural command ability and was groomed to become a Star ship captain from the start. Since you failed in every single test and your instructors and evaluators strongly recommended that you are never in any command position, I will explain it to you, but more so to the Assembly. Command ability is not giving a person an order and expect it to be carried out. It is the ability to give the right order at the right moment each and every time without thinking of rules and regulations yet adhering to them. It is the ability to make the right decision no matter what sacrifice and hardship it might cause including the death of every single person under his or her command. Including ones best friends, family and ultimate self sacrifice without a moment of hesitation. It is the ability to lead others without the need for ranks by inspiring others to follow orders given out of conviction and the desire to do their very best and sacrifice everything to achieve the objective. It can not be thought, or quantified. It must be there and be at the core of a being. The single most important task of our fleet is to find those individuals and hone their skills and ability.”

Stahl had talked facing Augustus but now he spoke into the Cam bot and thus to the Assembly and the Union. There is no Command specialization at the Academy for that very reason. Command school is not there to teach something that cannot be taught. It only gives the future Captain the tools to do the day to day job. Not a single word or class is taught on what it means to command.

Everyone admitted knows it already.

Serving as an XO is a time tested method to add experience, to develop his or her command style. Neither Command school nor being an XO is required or codified in any regulation. The only requirement becoming a Captain is demonstrating the ability to command a Union ship to the satisfaction of five senior command officers who in turn recommend the Captains commission to fleet command.

Captain Brutus who was ridiculed before the entire Union only moments ago. Was the Captain of the USS R’Tisis.”

A sudden swell of voices confirmed that many remembered the R’Tisis.

Augustus used the pause to interrupt,“Well you did answer the question. A ...”

Now Admiral Augustus was interrupted by the Vordirian representative.“I put forth the motion to let Admiral Stahl finish. Usually all we get to hear is the short reports of Stahl’s successes and deeds. We never really hear him talk. Now he revealed the identity of the hero of Voridia. I received 45 million requests of my people in the last minute to laud Captain Brutus and I will do so later,but now I call for a vote to let Stahl talk as much as he wants. We might never get the chance to hear him that long again.”

Every one who could stand did, and the Speakers voting panel lit up in a bright green while the Assembly cheered and chanted the name Stahl.

The speaker said.“That was the fastest 100 percent vote in Assembly history! In my position as speaker I must stay neutral. As representative of the Garbini I cheerfully agree and as private person I actually wish you would object, Admiral Augustus.”

Augutus grunted.“How can I object. This hearing has turned into a public spectacle without respect for the process or the law.”

The Garbini said. “The Union public opinion is the law. Now Admiral Stahl please continue, the Assembly and the Union would be very grateful.”

McElligott was certain if Stahl would have asked to be the new Emperor of the Union and declare them his Empire, he would have been confirmed as such within the hour.

Stahl said. “It is not me who deserves this credit. It is representative Brutus indeed. The Voridian is quite right, Captain Brutus defended the Voridian planet against an overwhelming force of Shiss. The details of this fight is known to many and public record. Over two thousand Fleet personnel lost their lives, the ship a burning wreck. Captain Brutus not only defeated the space fleet of the Shiss. He personally led a ground assault with what crew he had left and freed the Voridian council and saved the lives of every Voridian child in the communal hatchery by preventing the Shiss massacre already commencing. He organized the Voridians and secured the city. He was shot and most of his body burned. His suit kept him alive until he was found by Union Marines a few days later.

Once he was restored, he wanted us to keep his deeds secret. He said that he only did what any Union officer would do and refused special or public recognition. He also refused the promotion to Admiral several times so he could stay Captain of his ship.

He asked to retire as he didn’t want to command another ship. He received the Assembly Medal of Honor, again asking to keep his name secret. The Pan Saran emperor however heard about it and appointed him to be the Representative of Pan Saran.” Stahl stood in attention and saluted to the cam bot and in turn to the Pan Saran.

The former Captain also stood and a tear pearled down his face.“Receiving your salute Admiral Stahl is the highest honor possible,Sir.”

The Assembly was eerie quiet.

Not even Augustus dared to interrupt this moment, even he knew they would call for his immideate execution if he said something now.

To the Voridian representative Brutus said.“Please celebrate your freedom and not a man. I am thankful I was part of your liberation. If you want to show your gratitude, remember the beings who made the ultimate sacrifice. The members of my crew and the Voridians who fought with us to secure your freedom.”

He then saluted and sat back down.

Stahl waited a few moments and then gestured to Augustus. “Why don’t you continue your inquest so we may get on with our lives and I can return to the front, the war isn’t over you know.”

It took Augustus every bit of self control not to scold Stahl and squeezed a thank you between his clenched teeth.

But his confidence returned as he once more focused on Olafson. “Let us then be more specific. Who gave you command over the USS Tigershark and while you add it. What kind of ship is this anyway? I could not find a hull number or class. Long range large capacity freight shuttle with a price tag of nearly nine trillion credits. You could order two battle ships fully equipped with that!”

Eric seemed fascinated with his fingernails, looked up. “Admiral McElligott did. The Tigershark is a space ship. You know the kind that flies, not the wet keel type. Even you should have seen one. I only commanded her, I didn’t buy her so for the price tag you need to discuss that with procurment. We sort of did shuttle all kinds of stuff around and covered rather long distances.”

Augustus turned to McElligott and said. “Since this did turn into an open spectacle, I demand you explain why you decided to make a Midshipman acting Captain of a totally overpriced shuttle. That it was armed is evident in this log book and even carried a P Bomb.”

McElligott rose from his seat and faced Olafson,not the Admiral. “I am truly sorry for causing this. It was never meant to involve you. After this is over, I will take responsibility for the events.”

Augustus blinked. “I asked you a question.”

McElligott sighed. “Alright. I am the fool who started this mess. I will do my part to end it. As the Security council chairman and former member of the Gray Ghosts said. Some of the reasons for secrecy has ended. For whatever mistakes I made in the past and of course quite recently I also did a few things right. Giving Captain Olafson command over the USS Tigershark is without doubt my proudest achievement and via this venue I can tell you the Assembly and all of the Union, the facts and the truth. It is not a criminal or impostor that sits before you, but quite possibly the greatest hero our Union has ever seen. Second only to the Eternal Warrior.”

Augustus hissed.“Cease this meaningless monologue and come to the point. Stop calling this Midshipman Captain. It is clear you try to whitewash your own quite possible criminal involvement in this scandal. Ordering a shuttle for trillions of credits. I wonder how much of that money ended up in your pockets. Now answer the question! Be aware you are the focus of Poly scanners and while in Uniform or at least that fantasy version you came up with, you are to tell the truth.”

McElligott shouted.“Shut up. Not a word out of you , or by God I make you shut up forever.”

Augustus wanted to respond but he swallowed whatever he wanted to say as he saw the expression in McElligott’s face.

The Klack representative said.“Thank you for that. Now before we hear your response is it not exaggerated to call this Officer in the same sentence as Stahl? He is accused of a number of serious crimes. They were exposed by a rather obnoxious individual but they where valid enough for us to agree with this hearing taking place.”

Stahl answered instead.“The word hero is often used quite casual. I do not see myself at one. I do what I do out of the necessity to do it. Captain Olafson and his crew however have earned this title many times over and in this I fully agree with McElligott.”

This statement caused quite a stir.

McElligott left his seat, the camera showed Olafson now visibly embarrassed and said to the Assembly. “I created this mess indeed but I also too steps to rectify it. To verify that I speak the truth, I asked for a few witnesses to be present. These witnesses know the full extend of the events, know the details and can verify every part. I am calling for the Narth Supreme, Mothermachine, the Saran Queen, the Pan Saran Emperor, Alycia Lichfangh Commandant of the PSI corps, Nuygih Avigh and Plobyr the Leedei Tribune, the Klack Queen, The Nul Monarch, Alegar of the Saresii, Egil Skallagrimmson, the First Engineer, Cherubim never before public seen, The Commandant of NAVINT, Admiral Stahl, Tar Ka-Hi of the Dai and Yuttry of the new Y’All who had planned to ask for his kinds membership today.”

What started as military hearing to expose and convict a midshipman for misconduct and crimes, evolved first into a special session of the Assembly to witness the hearing conducted by an Assembly appointed inspector and then saw testimonials of Admiral Stahl; who revealed the identity of a real Union hero had now become a truly historic special session with almost every citizen glued to their GalNet terminal watching the events unfold.

It was later called the day the Union stood still.

Every representative was present either in person or via Avatar.

McElligott called this unprecedented group of witnesses. Most of them known to every citizen, and beyond reproach.

Some of the beings now assembling in that court room, were in essence living deities of the Union. Officially the Union had no leaders. The beings there were by their own admission nothing more than Union citizens. However when they spoke the Union listened.

It was them who really shaped and directed the Union, there was no doubt.

Historians and scholars also usually agree that the Narth Supreme was in essence the Union’s leader.

He made no laws, commanded nothing, enforced no rules but whenever he spoke or suggested something it was followed without hesitation or the slightest reservation.

He wasn’t officially worshiped as he resented that as illogical, irrelevant and pointless exercise and advised that a being should instead seek out factual truth by thinking for themselves utilizing logic, serve his fellow beings. Defend the society and find joy in life according to its own goals. Not dictated by a codified religion telling what is acceptable or not. Narth Supreme expressed this in his only official interview and added that he too is nothing more than a Union Citizen equal to everyone else under the common expressed law.

It was this interview however that cemented his status as unofficial but quite real leader of the Union.

The Speaker of the Assembly called for a special session. Suspending all standard Assembly business. It was approved.

McElligott thanked them, and begun.“To begin my tale, I must go back far before Eric Olafson was even born, yet is necessary for you to understand it all. What I am telling you know has been classified Blue-Blue-Red for the longest time. It is the second highest security level we have.

It started during the end of the 4th Intergalactic war. When the known civilizations of our Galaxy came together to discuss peace and end of war and fighting. To accomplish that a buffer zone was proposed, a region of space that could not be violated or conquered by anyone. A zone where only civilian traffic and interaction was permitted. The proposal was accepted. The Big Four, that were the Shiss, the Nul, the Kermac led Galactic Council and us the United Stars. Signatory to the so called Freespace treaty were also about eighty smaller civilizations not associated to any of the Big Four. Prime clause was that no official ship of any of the Big Four was permitted to cross into Freespace. A condition when broken would instantly cause war, a condition very closely policed by everyone. It was hoped this zone encouraged civilian trade, cultural interaction and lasting peace.”

He looked around and a Marine brought him a chair. He thanked the man and continued. “It did not work out that way. It became a lawless zone, a safe haven for the criminal scum of the entire galaxy. A place where pirates could operate with impunity. They could raid,kill and enslave and only had to flee across the Freespace border to be safe from any pursuit.

Now most of you call me an old fool and recent events proved that you were quite right with that assessment. However I am an Immortal and I have been around for a while. I knew Freespace would develop exactly as it did and not become the utopian place of peace as it was intended.

This was not something our eternal warrior could prevent or rectify. Even the mighty Devastator was unable to cross into Freespace without causing war. Stahl’s hands were tied by your ratification of the Freespace treaty. He is many things indeed but he would not break the law of the Union to save his life.

So, with the director of the UNB, and a small team we conceived Project FISH to gather intelligence, monitor the clandestine activities of the others, free slaves as much as we could and bring as many criminals to justice as possible.

The project was outlined in details, presented to the Assembly security council and approved under Assembly decision 49 on April 2nd 3601.”

He paused for a moment, padding his Sporran. Looking for his pipe but decided against it and continued.“The project was to develop assets, methods and means to do all this in utmost secrecy, chiefly of course not to start a war.

Gathering intelligence in space means we had to have ships that could operate in Freespace. We used civilian ships, ships of non union manufacture. However none of these ships was suitable to engage pirate ships or conduct long term missions. We decided to develop a ship suitable for this task. Equipped with the best technology and systems specifically suited. It of course could not be recognized as being of Union design either. We had to design and built this ship in complete secrecy. In 5020 that ship, officially designated a long range freight shuttle has been completed.

It was the new core component of the Project FISH and thus christened USS Tigershark. A name suggested by me, as it was the name of the pre astro atomic submarine I commanded. Silent, unseen but potentially deadly.”

He then looked towards Olafson and his crew. “What good is the best ship without a crew? We wanted the crew to be as secret and unknown as possible. Established officers and crews have friends, colleagues. If we pull a Captain off his ship or promote an experienced Commander away from his ship. Questions will be asked, by friends, colleagues, academy mates. Making someone disappear is more difficult than you may think and to do that for the entire crew of a ship is bound to cause problems as the devil is in the details as you know.

But as we were about to launch the Tigershark we were also looking to solve this problem.

I revealed the project and the intent to Admiral Richard Stahl. We not often see eye to eye but on a professional level we always depend on each other. Among his many unexplainable talents is to spot cadets that have this special command ability he was telling you about. No one, not even him can explain what he sees. I developed the theory that he somehow recognizes those who have the same ability he has in spades. Anyhow together we pre selected about twenty potential groups to be closley monitored and nudged into the right direction, when we received a report that a teenage Neo Viking, defeated an armed space bus with a submarine.”

Stahl chuckled at that and Nelson II who was of course listening displayed the old news report of the Nilfeheim incident.

McElligott continued. “Richard was instantly interested and we found out said teenager was about to apply at the Academy. His name as you can see in the news report was Eric Olafson. On a side note I would want to point out that this young man prevented terrorists from detonating a spore bomb on Twilight moon.” Again Nelson displayed the news footage.

“At that time you may know some of the Dai decided to join the Union and that caused the big Union/ Dai battle near the Prometheus nebula that subsequently led to the Union Nogoll war. Eric Olafson was aboard a civilian yacht as guest of Axel Enroe and on its way to Corri Door. The yacht was attacked by a stray Dai Battleship. Now for any other yacht this would be the end of the story. Eric took command as the yachts captain was incapacitated and yes you guessed it, defeated the Dai Battleship.”

This caused a surprised buzz among the Assembly representatives and everyone watched the visual recordings of that event.

After the recording was complete, McElligott said.“Richard and I knew it then this young man would make history, and boy we had no idea how right we were.

Eric applied shortly after at the academy and we kept close watch on him.

At that time the Elly wanted us to invite the Yokuda into the Union. They had just been freed from the Nogoll yoke, but did not trust us. To make their decision they asked us to visit them during their Freedom celebrations with a delegation of young people. It is their tradition to ask young for their opinion because they had no time to become experienced liars. So I gathered a group of green as can be cadets. Not even ten days at the Academy. Yes one of them was Cadet Eric Olafson.

To cut the story short. He saved my life and that of the Yokuda elders preventing an asassination attempt. If that wasn’t enough he uncovered a Kermac plot, prevented the detonation of PSI spore bombs and pretty much saved the entire planet.”

The Yokuda representative got up.“It is very true, this is why Captain Olafson received the highest citation we could bestow and we renamed our Spaceport the Olafson Port in his honor. You can see the entire event on the dedication screen below his statue.”

Eric coughed.“I have a statue?”

The Yokuda representative tooted proudly.“Yes Captain.”

Nelson promptly displayed an image and Shea giggled much to Eric’s embarrassment. While Har Hi grinned devilishly. “Well maybe the next statue shows you with clothing.”

Stahl tried very hard to hide his grin behind his hand.

The Yokuda explained. “It is our tradition to show honored heroes this way so nothing distracts from the essence.”

Elfi also giggled.“I think some human females will certainly be distracted. At least the Yokuda birds have nice long perch.”

McElligott tried to ignore it and picked up where he had stopped.

“Anyway Cadet Olafson went to basic training and became the first human to befriend a Narth. His first year was as quite eventful but this part must remain secret for now. However during that time he bested one of the most talented sword fighters in a private duel and saved the Narth’s life. The Narth Supreme wanted me to mention that so you all know Narth are not immortal, advanced yes but not gods.

Eric was made the High Representative of the Narth and he still holds this honorary but quite real title to this day.

In his second year he was present when two Y’All warriors in suspended animation were found. The Y’All were reanimated by Kermac agents and controlled by them.

Eric defeated both Y’All in hand to hand combat and saved the lives of many.

The Pertharian representative voiced what others where thinking. “Admiral McElligott we know you are telling the truth and the panel of witnesses is beyond reproach, but maybe the report was embellished. No human would stand a chance against one Y’All and you want to tell us he defeated two?”

The Pertharians behind Eric stood up like one being and thundered.“We sat quiet while our Captain was insulted because the ones making the accusations are so insignificant that it does not count. You however are our Representative and I rip your arms off, all of them if you ever question our Captain again. I am Kuthar master of the ninth level and a trained Marine. I would not dare to go against the Captain.”

That outburst of Pertharian anger silenced the disbelieving murmur. Elligott however said.“I have been authorized to show you the fight. I can not tell you where it happened or why but here it is.”

Nelson displayed the old footage of Eric’s epic battle against the lumbering giants.

The footage ended after the visuals showed the Marines entering the lab.

TheOther now got up.“I was one of them and I am not ashamed he defeated me. He is my friend and will be my captain as long as God lets me live.”

The Pertharian representative stretched out all four arms. “I apologize for doubting. I offer my arms.”

McElligott waved.“No need representative, I had a hard time believing it when I saw that recording a little over thirty years ago.” He then cleared his throat and went on.“When the Security Council saw this footage back then, it was decided to recommend him for the Medal of Honor. It was to recognize his actions on the Yokuta planet and his heroic acts to defeating the Y’All. You the Assembly granted him this first Medal of Honor without knowing the details. Now you do.

I could go on and tell you about many more events but we need to eventually come to an end. I will mention that he served his third year aboard the USS Hyperion at the OPS position and received the highest marks on this difficult posting that is usually manned by officers earmarked as Command Officers and one step away from XO. It too is considered part of Command school by the way.

He completed his final year aboard the USS Devastator where he met some of his crew. Har-Hi the very first Dai to join the Union Fleet. Without question the best fighter pilot there is. Shea Schwartz, with an IQ of Nebele, son of the Zulu king the first Virtu Helmsman reaching a rating of 1000. Krabbel the Archa navigator and Mao Mao Vouza, tactical together they introduced ice cream to the Archa as most of you all know. Circuit the X101 engineer and perhaps the Unions foremost authority on nanites. Hans Neugruber, Saturnian six times galactic champion of the Ultra Iron man contest and the second daughter of the current queen of Saran, princess Elfirata. They became known as the Midshipman group Olafson’s Gang and never before or since then has there been a Midshipman group like them. I will ask for the declassification of their records and the events they were involved in, till then I must ask you to take my word that they were special indeed.

I am again mentioning this to make a point. Because at this point we made the decision that these individuals would be the core of the crew for the new ship. Young maybe, new and inexperienced yes but I challenge anyone to show me a more resourceful and talented group of officers.

They were sent to participate in the last Reagan trophy event held at the now closed Newport Elite academy. Sent by Captain Harris in their own Barracuda destroyer partially to test if they could indeed command a ship and partially out of pride to show that he trusted his Midshipman with a ship. On their way to Newport they defeated a Techlevel 11 ship piloted by a reanimated real Seenian. Rescued a Hospital ship and cured a planet wide plaque. ” He held up both hands to silence the storm of comments as he revealed the existence of a Seenian alive.“We will brief you on that during a separate Assembly session. Now bear with me the tale has not even begun to be fantastic. Realize also what I just said. A group of Midshipmen destroyed a ship technologically far advanced, towed a full sized hospital ship over many light years using a Barracuda destroyer and found a cure to an airborne disease that was the intended destination for the hospital ship. They did all this on their own and still made it to Newport in time. The events on Newport are a chapter by itself but they were instrumental in uncovering criminal activities, won the Reagan trophy and saved the live of Richard Stahl,mine and that of everyone else on Newport. Again details on these events are classified but we are preparing a report that can be divulged.

Long story short, I believe I illustrated to everyone why we had no problems no hesitation to give Eric Olafson the command over the USS Tigershark and have him appoint his senior crew. He graduated that day, but we could not file his promotion officially in the system, because filing a promotion from Midshipman to Captain would have caused every alarm bell going off at Fleet personnel. Of course we could justify our decision and well within regulations but drawing attention to this crew was exactly what we wanted to avoid. So Admiral Stahl, the Admiral of NAVINT, General Lichfangh, Commandant Cherubim and I signed the promotion the old fashioned way on a real document and filed it sealed and classified with Fleet Central Archives. Officially we promoted him to Acting Captain because no personnel record changes must be filed. We also originally intended to sent Olafson to command school after his first mission ended. His first mission lasted far longer than we intended. When it finally did, sending Captain Olafson to command school would frankly be a joke. It would be the same as if sending Michelangelo to an Art class for beginners.”

Finally he gave in to his urge and produced his pipe.“I am sorry, but this is taking a little longer than I anticipated. So I hope you excuse me for lighting a pipe. I simply can talk better when I do.”

After a few moments he produced a blue cloud of smoke and resumed his tale.“The Tigershark was to be disguised as pirate ship and its crew as pirates. Under this guise they could enter Freespace, reconnoiter their hide outs and so forth. The mission gained urgency as the first Narth, many Leedei and members of the then new and very secretive member of the Coven begun their active service with the PSI corps. This and the completion of Nelson II almost immediatley produced results. You see the fleet is a truly gigantic organization. While it is a lawful organization with trillions of honest members. There is a very small percentage that is not. There is petty theft, bribery and diversion of supplies and munitions for personal gain. While our CID does a marvelous job in solving the occasional murder. Small thefts and crimes of individuals. It was never able to eliminate the organized crime element called the Worm. Now I am not revealing a secret, the criminal activities report within the Navy is part of the Council report every month and featured in the State of the fleet report delivered every Union Week. We estimated about 0.2 percent to be involved with the Worm. That is a miniscule number on its own but 0.2 percent of a Trillion beings is still a lot of individuals. While I will not be able to prevent theft and murder or other crimes of chance, I have made it my goal to eliminate organized crime from the Navy.

This was the main reason to upgrade from Nelson to Nelson II and the main task of the PSI Corps.

As it became known the Narth strengthened the ranks of the PSI Corps, those with dark secrets suddenly became very nervous and for good reasons. Anyone convicted of being member of a secret fraternity or criminal organization faces the death penalty. Regardless if you just been a door man for five minutes or the leader of that group. So many of those gangsters deserted and fled before they could be exposed. They escaped into Freespace, unfortunatly some did not leave empty handed and took restricted or even secret equipment, munitions and weapons along.

Part of the Tigershark’s mission was to find such leaks, recover or destroy Union tech before it reached the wrong hands and in case a Class X weapon eliminate anyone and anything that could have knowledge of it.” He paused. “Not the most moral or ethical correct solution, but the only logical one. This need to keep our Translocator technology and associated systems out of the hands of others was openly discussed and Mil-tech protection Act of 3591 and the Translocator Secret protection Act also of 3591 and ratified every year since then. This act requires in open non secret language to do exactly what we ordered Olafson to do.

The small secretive X fleet operating inside Freespace was under the control of NAVINT. For two reasons. Fleet members serving NAVINT are authorized by the Assembly to engage in all clandestine activity deemed necessary to protect the Union from forces hostile to the Union and without spatial restrictions and thus granting their operation even inside Freespace; and to keep their command structure small manageable and out of the Fleet activity report given to the General Assembly.

But we went a step further to ensure the legality of Olafson’s orders and mission. We informed the Covered Committee and requested their final blessing with a security council vote. It was granted and approved.

Back to Olafson and the Tigershark. While pirates have no real names, everyone remembers and knows the name of the pirate captain. At that time Eric Olafson changed his gender legally to female. Why he did this is highly classified manly due to personal choice reasons.

So we decided to give Olafson the identity of a mysterious female render captain named Black Velvet. Black Velvet has always been a NAVINT created identity. We spread the rumors of Velvet’s crimes and deeds. If you will take the time to check. None of the Union ships she supposed to have captured have ever existed. The survivors giving testimony in hysterical manners on GalNet shows were actors and actresses. Again if you investigate their names you find they have never existed and were survivors of ships that never flew.

So naturally Olafson signed as Erica and mentioned the name Black Velvet.

As for his mission. He found the Mini Terrans, is responsible that the Golden are Union members. Yes this is really Sodoby the Golden and yes he really is part of the Tigershark crew and for nearly thirty years. He rescued the gray Nul. The result is the Nul are members instead of enemies and Xon the Nul prince is also part of his crew. He freed the Stick and sent their delegation to Pluribus, ending the hell hole that was known as Sin 4. He purchased Alvor’s Cove from the Local Lord and his so called planet manger Igisir the horrible is in reality Commander Plensir of NAVINT bying thousands of slaves and secretly freeing them. Over 800,000 Union citizens, 2 million Union Non Cits and almost 3 million slaves of non union slaves were saved by this alone.

He shut down the Smelter moons of Karthania. Reactivated the First Engineer and ended the reign of the Hull builders guild. The First Engineer is with us here, the Karthanians are members. He rescued the All White Togar, dethroned the former Queen and installed the rightful Queen who as you can see a member of his crew. He helped the Dolbran to defeat the Kermac overlords without them knowing until the Dolbran informed them they are Union members now. He prevented the Xandrao to become a Kermac thrall species and we gained our first Downward sector member.

All the while he discovered a living stellar dust cloud. Lt Dusty the huge Golem who of course immideatly joined the Tigershark crew. His crew also includes a Living Seenian Battle suit and the next best thing to a real ghost. He discovered a Seenian depot and gifted the Union with the USS Dominator and a whole fleet of Devastator type ships. So I guess we made a good bargain spending a few trillions on his ship.”

Stahl said.“You forgot the Living mountain, the planet sized living blanket. Curing the Furze outcasts from a sentinent disease. The sentinent parasite rides on top of that nightmarish fleshbot goes by the name of Zzzzzt and of course ended up in Olafson’s crew. That are the more memorable highlights of just the first mission and I can personally attest the other missions are just as incredible. He has managed to suprise me and McElligott every time he delivered a report and to surprise an Immortal isn’t all that easy.”

McElligott cleaned his now cold pipe.“I guess that will do for today and dispel all accusations,right Admiral Augustus?”

The fat admiral could only nod. Then he said.“Speaker please call for a vote. I have nothing to more.”

The Assembly voted with 99.9 to dismiss all charges as groundless. The single vote for guilty came from the representative of Nilfeheim who shouted down from her Alcove.“I hate you,Eric.”

Egill who was still among the called witnesses grinned.“She can’t make up her mind.”

The speaker thanked the Assembly and declared the special session to be concluded and normal Assembly business to commence and terminated the connection.”

Stahl with both his fists stemmed against his sides gave Augustus a stern look.

“I am Richard Stahl. That costume I am wearing is the same Uniform I wore the day this fleet was founded. It conforms down to the last seam to the very first regulation, even the freaking sunglasses. Do you know why I do not wear a ribbon display. There isn’t one big enough to show them all and I refuse to walk around like a christmas tree. If you are the ideal example of what an Admiral supposed to be then I am going to quit today and leave. I am sure that commission who empowered you or that fool that promoted you will be glad real Admirals like you direct our fleets and troops into battle. ”

He turned to McElligott.“If you find any reason in my professional conduct that causes you dissatisfaction. All you have to do is say it open and straight forward. I live by the rules and you are my superior officer. You can dismiss me, even ask me to quit and I do it without hesitation.

I want and must be held accountable for all I do, but if I am treated like a school boy without respect by a specimen that makes me wonder how he and I could possibly serve the same fleet then what chance does an Ensign or Star man have against the self rightgeous witch hunting pea counting bureaucrats and paper pushers like that specimen. As bad as he is. He is not alone there is an army of officers just like him. They are all alike, bitter at life, jealous of others and vengeful abusing power when given to them.

I am also not against rules. I am a soldier for all my long life. I eat and sleep regulations and follow them as diligent as a third year cadet, but if you want unthinking automatons then you do not need beings but non sentinent machines .Do you think a non sentient machine would have done what Captain Brutus did. Do you want the likes of Augustus commanding our ships. Following regulations Brutus should have retreated and waited for reinforcements. He even abandoned his ship and fought on the ground. Everything against regulations I might add. Why not have Augustus prosecute him? And don’t get me started on Eric. He broke, bend circumvented and ignored pretty much every rule. Yet you spend half a day just to outline a percentage of his deeds.

While Stahl was scolding McElligott , many light years away on planet Pluribus Unum, the Assembly had not turned back to normal business, despite the Speaker saying so. The always present subdued din of voice, the dignified atmosphere usually prevalent inside the Sphere of the Assembly, highlighted by the Speaker’s voice or the request or statement of a representative was gone. It more sounded like a galactic market where everyone was trying to sell something.

The corridors outside, the Ring Park was black with citizens. The GalNet main board of the Assembly was actually at it’s limit.

GalNet Channel One was currently transmitting to about 98 percent of all GalNet terminals.

At no point did the Fleet public relations desk receive that many requests for information as now. Trillions of requests for a copy of the Tigershark logbook were made every second.

A mass demonstration of at least 5 million citizens formed within hours actually marching towards the Assembly. Marking it the very first actual protest in Union history.

The Speaker tried its best to regain some form of order. Yet the system he used to to allocate speaking time to a delegate was at the limit and displayed speaking request of virtually every Representative.

He finally managed to gain their attention as he hit the never used contact to raise the Assembly Emergency alert. Meant to be used in an imminent attack on Pluribus and the Assembly.

The loud alert, the flashing lights and the first real activation of the planet spanning Para Dim shield managed to give him the chance to speak.“Assembly I raised the alarm to regain control.”

He then said.“Utchat, end the alert and deactivate shields and defense measures and then tie me in planet wide and on GalNet one.”

The Pluribus AI said.“Complied, you are now planet wide and GalNet One.”

“United Stars of the Galaxies I am the Speaker of the Assembly. I was forced to result to this drastic measure to regain order. We will address each issue and decide on it. One at a time, this is our way and this is how we do it, unless you release me from my post and decide to change the way things are done.”

He paused only for a second.“So first I am calling for an imminent Union wide vote. Will we deal with the situation as dictated by our laws and custom or are we to resolve the Assembly and find another way to govern? Simple as that.”

The vote was made in the first Union wide 100 percent vote of all citizens able to vote at that time to continue by laws and custom. It turned out that almost every citizen was following the procedures.

He sighed with great relief as he realized what consequences his voting request would have meant if they voted otherwise. Technically the Union never came closer of being dissolved.

He pointed with most of his tentacles to the protesting citizens.“Never in our history have Union citizens felt the need to protest, since this government is the people. So it is my duty as the Speaker to grant them the platform first. Is there a person that is accepted to speak for them?”

First Guard soldiers escorted a group of ten beings to the center platform, a Pertharian was pointed out to speak.“I am Torrux Tandalor, Pertharian former United Stars Marine Commandant, retired and president of the Veterans of the Union association. I represent the expressed opinion of all our members. I am also first and foremost a Union Citizen. We were compelled to form a protest group so we would be able to voice our proposals. First we propose to make Admiral Stahl the Admiral in charge. No one above him but the Assembly and thus the citizens. No committees, no councils. The Citizens via the Assembly should be the only institution that has the power to summon him. Even our enemies show more respect to the Eternal Warrior than it was shown today. That he is never above the law and has served all of us in the most honorable way is evident to everyone after 3000 years of impeccable unwavering service.

Second we demand that only officers that actually served as commanding officers will be promoted to Admiral rank. We completely agree that our fleet needs to be run by rules and every regulation; well most of them are there for a reason. For the normal and common infractions we have a time tested system of military justice and for the big ones we then will have Admirals that use actual experience and common sense to decide if the rules were broken out of criminal or necessary reasons. Third and final request comes from us Marines retired or active. I know I speak for every grunt all the way to the current Commandant. Make Richard Stahl our highest Commandant and permanent until he steps down or is recalled by an Assembly vote.

We are Marines. We serve this Union first and foremost, we are devoted to the Corps but we want to honor him by requesting to make him First Marine, make this the highest rank and his title.”

The Assembly cheered and so did the millions outside the Assembly.

The speaker straightened.“Is there anyone who want to comment or question Mr. Tandalor or do we proceed to call for a vote?”

The Narth representative requested to be heard. All noise ebbed away as the shrouded figure was focused on the screens.“Narth Supreme conveyed that he finds this proposal quite logical and so Narth favors this request. As an Union Citizen, not as the voice of all Narth one finds that this proposal has one serious flaw. One is of the opinion that this request is long overdue.”

The vote resulted in another 100 percent approval and the request was passed into law.

The representative of the No Corps managed to be heard next. “Should we not also recognize McElligott? He has served our Union just as long. He might not agree with everything Admiral Stahl does, but despite the popularity or because of it do we not need a voice that is not afraid to present an alternative view? I happen to be Richard Stahl’s friend and know him for a long time. His views are uncompromisable and true. Yet his voice is that of a warrior.

I personally find great wisdom in the quote of Admiral McElligott when he said: The worst peace is better than the best war. He is also known for saying: War is necessary but must always be the very last option. His conviction is perhaps best shown when he said. Wars are easily started but so hard to stop.

I am quoting him to show you, he is far from an old fool and I am convinced that we also need a voice of temperance. It was his wisdom to foresee the problems the Freespace treaty would cause. Granted he was not the only one, I am certain. But he took steps to deal with them.

He rightly pointed out that not all situations can or should be handled with brute force. This even Admiral Stahl agrees with.

I have consumed the lengthy report a Bellebee compiled on Admiral McElligott and I encourage everyone to read at least the conclusion. McElligott has served this Union with distinction and unquestionable loyalty. He has through his actions preserved peace, saved countless lives and last but not least this fleet we are so proud of has been made into what it is by him. That alone should guarantee our eternal gratitude.

Therefore do I propose him to be recognized by awarding him the Assembly Medal of Honor. I further propose a new rank and title. That of Chief Executive Admiral to conduct all affairs and business of the Navy with the expressed highest authority and only second to the Assembly of the Union. Therefore he is equal in rank with Admiral Stahl without interfering into the other Admirals field of authority. These men might not be the best of friends but to me they there is ample proof that they work well together. We should be indeed grateful for having such dedicated men leading our most important organization. I made my case.”

While the proposal was not approved by a hundred percent vote, it still passed with an amazing 91 percent.


Stahl had been interrupted by the news that the Assembly raised the Emergency alert. Like everyone else he and the beings listened to the events unfold.

Stahl at first wasn’t happy. He feared that to much power corrupts and that he now needed to be even more self aware that he did not use this power for personal gain.

The Narth Supreme still present however went as far as putting his hand on Stahl’s shoulder. “Richard, because of this fear and iron self control. There is no one better than you. In matters of war it has been shown that it is best to have just one mind at the top. In these matters you are supreme. All Narth will follow you and so will. An entity that exceeds our understanding with virtual omnipotence is bound by you on your word and out of unshakeable trust. What is the power of all the Union compared to that?”

“Putting it that way you frighten me even more!”

Eric came over.“The Narth Supreme is correct. I am the Dark One but I am also Eric Olafson. To the entity I represent there a few absolutes. One however is the trust and the respect I have for you. This is why I heeded your command to stay away from the war and tempt you to end it. The Eric in me would want to but the Entity understands your wisdom in your decision and is evidence that you indeed can be trusted with power. It also cemented my allegiance to you as Eric and as the Dark One.”

The Dark One’s voice echoed in Eric’s and it caused everyone present to shiver in fear. Most of course did not why or associate the seemingly normal human standing with the Admiral and the Narth Supreme.

The Dark One observed.“It is a very human gesture to express affection with this gesture.”

“I learned the concept of friendship from you Dark One via your friendship to the Young Narth and I am richer for it.”

Together they listened to the Non Corp and Stahl was actually pleased.“You know he is quite right, I am guilty myself of disregarding, overlooking and ignoring McElligott’s accomplishments. He often is an obnoxious old man who couldn’t hit a barn door with a TKU standing two meters before it, but he did indeed built this fleet. Without it I could not have done my part. Yes I am a pretty decent officer, saying that without meaning to laud myself or course, but stick me in funds appropriation meeting and I would shoot everyone present and kill myself after that. It is the next best thing to Hell to me. No offense Dark One.”

“None taken.”

The Narth Supreme said. “Deep down there is no one he respects more than you, Eternal Warrior and in a grandfatherly way he loves Eric and his crew. A father could not be prouder. Yes he has the ability to see far into the future and Narth like patience to make all the little adjustments to accomplish his goals. His involvement in this affair was caused by the very human feeling of standing in the shadow of a giant, accumulated by your resurrection Dark One. He, as all the other Immortals were picked by the Guardian to prepare Human kind for your arrival. To be suddenly robbed of the perceived reason of existing is a serious blow. He was working towards it for nearly 3000 years. This is a very long time for an otherwise normal human. All his feelins of anger frustration to dedicate every thing he had not receiving made him emotionally quite raw. That he was emptying more than just one bottle of his beloved Scotch did not exactly temper his anger but clouded his normal a moment of rage he set a few things in motion he could no longer stop.

That he was grooming Augustus and other questonable officers was born out of an old idea. An idea I find ridiculous as the Narth Supreme, but not so wrong as a Union Citizen.”

Stahl no longer felt angry, but sorry and even guilt towards McElligott. The last words of the Narth Supreme however made him turn and say. “What?”

“McElligott is nothing if diligent. He tries to prepare for any possible problem he can foresee. I know of over 20,000 little projects he has set in motion and I am sure he has many more he can activate. Most of them just grow along and most likely will never be used. One of this projects he calls Corroded Steel in a wordplay of your name. He conceived it in the case you would ever become corrupt, misuse power or attempt a military putsch. If it would ever become necessary to arrest or trial you. He combes the fleet for officers who are either not afraid or not impressed by you. Something actually more difficult than you may plan has many elements. For example, he outlined in his contingency plan to use Army guards to arrest you as he was convinced no Marine would ever do it and rather face court martial and the gallows than to arrest you.

He found a handful officers each year. Groomed them into higher ranks and kept this pool of potentials stocked with officers over many hundred years.”

Stahl raised an eyebrow.“I be dammed.”

The Narth Supreme nodded. “He has a Contingency plan for what to do if you would die. If you disappear or get kidnapped. He even has a plan for what is to be done if he himself turns insane, rouge or dies. There are many thousands of this plans and some can be activated at a moments notice.”

A new light of respect shown in Stahl’s eyes.“There I am learning something new about a man I thought I knew.”

The Dark One said with Eric’s voice.“I never trusted him, like I did you, but I always respected him. Now even more.”

Narth Supreme added.“You know he is a member of the Gray Ghosts and not you,out of that reason. You are the greatest Warrior no question. You are the one I call friend but you are incapable of doing things that are immoral, unlawful or even outright criminal. He is willing to do it if the result is beneficial for the common good. In a way he represents the Third Way. We can be thankful that it was not you the Dark One reincarnated. You are the very definition of duality. Black or white, with no room for a shade of gray.”

“You make me sound like a fool. I do know there are many shades between light and dark.”

“Would you disregard a direct order of the Assembly if you were convinced that it is the better way?”

“Never. Once a decision is made it becomes law and I stick to it, regardless if I like it or not.”

“You made my point. The Assembly is a marvelous institution, but like you functioning on absolutes. Voting allows only for two options. Yes or No.”

“That is why the Gray Ghosts are necessary.”

Stahl grunted something and then walked over to the completely baffled McElligott. Followed closely by Eric and Narth Supreme.

McElligott turned from watching the Assembly preparing to vote on the Non Corp representative’s proposal. He was no coward but feared the worst as Stahl stomped close. He straightened his stance. “Will you give me the dignity to ask that the duel takes place in Scotland? I like to die there.”

Stahl said.“You want what?”

Narth Supreme said.“He thinks you will demand satisfaction and he has no illusions he will survive it.”

“Admiral McElligott, I came over to offer my apologies, express my personal thanks and finally congratulate you.”

Now it was McElligott repeating Stahl’s question.“You want to do what?” While he did, he missed the result of the Assembly vote.

“Stahl pointed to the huge field screen now to the back of the old Admiral. “Congratulate you for the Medal of Honor for one. If anyone deserved it, it’s you. My old friend Two Seven One addressing the Assembly and the Narth Supreme opened my eyes to something I knew for a long time and yet always ignored. Buried truth under a mountain of stupid human sentiment. O’Brock I am as guilty as you acting like a fool for nearly three thousand years. We are not wise, detached immortals. We are quite human idiots that just happen to be around longer.”

McElligott was prepared for anything but not that. He looked like a fish on dry land. “You not...”

“No, McElligott. We all did stupid things when we are angry and drunk. That those things went a tad out of hand and pretty much involved the entire Union is not entirely you fault.”

McElligott was still quite unprepared for the sudden change of things.“It is not?”

“You called me to help you stop these events. Instead of helping you, I acted like a self righteous fool, not much better than that clown Augustus. I wanted this to be the nail on your coffin. Not very mature for a three millenia old. I should have worked with you. The only excuse I have that I tend to be irritable when I get interrupted fighting a war. Not a very good excuse I know.”

Stahl offered McElligott his hand.“Will you accept my apology?”

McElligott had forgotten to breath and sighed deep sigh of relief.“I also want to apologize.”

“Accepted.”

Stahl shock hands with McElligott. The Eternal Warrior said.“We all forgot who made all this happen, me included. I do want to thank you for it. And if you ever find a marine that is unwilling to arrest me for breaking the law, you tell me.”

“All of them! Not that I need to do that. You breaking the law is as likely as Hell freezing over.”

The Narth Supreme.” Much less likely as that could be arranged.” While looking to Eric

McElligott also turned to Eric. “That it all got you involved, Captain Olafson is my fault and I am truly sorry.”

“Sir, thanks to your confidence in me, I was allowed to have the best thirty years anyone could ask for. You made me Captain of the Tigershark and for that alone you have my eternal thanks.”

Again Narth Supreme sounded amused. “When he says eternal, he actually means it.”

McElligott shivered. “I was not there when it happens. I don’t really understand who or what you are.”

Narth Supreme said.“I studied and prepared for this since this Universe begun and I still do not comprehend it fully and I was there when the Dark One awoke.”

Through Eric the Dark One said. “I am still also Eric Olafson, I am an Officer of this Navy, I am an Union Citizen and I am a friend, Sir.”

He saluted the old Admiral and so did Stahl.

O’Brock’s chin quivered and his old eyes glittered as he returned the salute.

The Narth Supreme said.“You have Narth’s respect as well.”

Eric congratulated the old Admiral to his medal and then he was about to join his friends. Yet he stopped as he noticed the still present Admiral Augustus “I am cleared of all Charges Admiral. You have five minutes to choose the weapons. ”

The fat man squealed. “I was doing my duty. I have done nothing wrong.”

“I would not go that far.” A Pan Saran Commodore said approaching the bench.“I am here to arrest you on an attempt to sabotage Fleet equipment crucial to the war effort.”

Augustus shrieked. “I told that machine to delete...”

Nelson II sounded even happier than usual.“Please let me replay your exact words and my response.”

Nelson II replayed the exchange that ended with the computronic saying :On March 5th,5052 at 0922 hrs Admiral M. Augustus conducted an unauthorized test on Fleet Main Computronic and then ordered the results of the test to be ignored and deleted. Test results deleted.”

Augustus dismissed it. “A machine can not press charges.”

The Pan Saran agreed.“Indeed Nelson II can not, but JAG can. However the testimonial of a Computronic is about as evidence can get. You do know what the penalty is when convicted on sabotage charges during war times, right?”

“I can explain. I did not...”

The Thauran shrugged. “I am sure you can, however I am only hear to arrest you. Believe me it is me you wanted to be arrested by!”

Augustus almost like his old arrogant self.“Now why would I want to be arrested by you?”

“Because outside are about two hundred marines who fight over the chance to arrest you. Calling Stahl an impostor wearing a costume was perhaps not the smartest thing. You see any real officer in this fleet knows that. Of course you could decide to resist and I weak as I am would have to call for Marine assistance. The Commander looked to Olafson. ” Please go ahead and finish your gentleman’s affair. I am not in a particular hurry and it makes no difference to me if I deliver the prisoner or a report of his demise.”

“This is Earth, Fleet headquarters. Commandant you can not permit him to simply kill me!”

“Death by duel fought between Officers on matters of honor is quite lawful.”

He shivered.“There is no regulation on it!”

“Because we have a few thousand unwritten rules. All however as binding and valid as the written ones.”

Augustus stared at Olafson. “How can you learn them, prepare for them if there are not written any one can just make them up.”

“No one can make them up or alter them. You know about them by osmosis, learn about them from fellow and senior officers and you live by them. They are valid in or out of uniform. They are the same to ground troops, fighter pilots navy personnel or marines. These rules are more then laws, more than regulations. They are born of our military history, connect us to everyone who wears the uniform of our union with respect and the willingness to give it all. These rules are the backbone of courage. These rules have names: Respect and Honor. Respect is earned and honor is given. These are the rules and that is the foundation of our fleet. These are the two rules I have never broken as Fleet Officer and it is by them I commanded my ship. I am so much more now and yet these rules a sacred to me.

You have no concept of respect and nothing you have honored nothing but yourself. No I won’t duel you because you would have to accept the challenge and thus earn my respect.”

Eric turned away left the man quivering, soiled in his own urine as Eric spoke with the voice of the Dark One and Augustus knew he had been face to face with death, not just his own mortality but the anti force of all life.

Eric was surrounded by his friends and his crew and Har Hi put his hand on Eric’s shoulder. I guess this is it. This is where Olafson’s Gang goes their separate ways.

Elfi started to cry and Shea burst in tears. Alice hugged Eric and sobbed. Krabbel also scurried close. Xon comforted the beautiful All White. Celia the usually cold and detached Seenian wiped tears as Mao held her with a face as if he stood by the grave of his best friend. Shaka held the roaming remote of SHIP. Hans clenched his fists and looked totally disturbed. Ortbeer,Dusty and Tyron Suit as alien as they were managed to look as sad and hopeless as the rest. Eric had his other hand on Narth.

Sodoby had his hands on the shoulders of Mr. Warner before him who looked especially pitiful with his drooping ears, limb tail and shimmering black eyes.

TheOther,Three-Four, Fective, Kolus and Lyth the Pertharians, the two Mini Terrans and Knnnnt the parasite along with Semrar the ancient Togar king completed the sad gathering,

Eric finally spoke. “I am the Dark One. I cannot stay with you because this is your universe and my time and task lies at the very end of all reality. If I remain with you I will interfere for you with consequences not meant to occur so early. The age of the old entities has ended. Their tasks or reason to be has long expired. They have broken the Rule by lingering on. I have destroyed or banished them from this Universe. I must also leave so your Universe can develop its own so you may enter the next stage and finally join...” He stopped and smiled.“It is knowledge not meant for you, mostly because it is knowledge valid when all time comes to an end.

I will remain a little while longer in this universe, I can be reached by each of you by simply sending me your thoughts. I am the Dark One, I am the anti force of life, but through Eric’s eyes and his humanity I have been blessed with the greatest gift, a force that is stronger than me real friendship expressed through unconditional love.”

His friends tried to smile and nodded.

The Dark One said.“My departure however does not mean the end of the Olafson’ Gang. I know Admiral McElligott wants to send a new Ship through the Ancient Gate network we discovered and Krabbel sort of accidentally activated.”

Har-Hi said.“How could it be the Olafson’s Gang without you?”

“Har-Hi it has always been Olafson’s Gang without me. I am the Dark One. Eric and I are one and I am united with my real shell and body.” Eric vanished and a tall shrouded being without a face just absolute endless darkness that was disturbing and emitted a coldness that reached down to very soul. The Dark One embraced each of his friends stepped back and vanished.

Before anyone could really say anything a tall beautiful blonde stood in the place of the Dark One.

Everyone recognized her, it was Eric’s female alter ego. Har Hi blinked completely surprised.“Erica?”

“Yes I am Erica Olafson. I have been with you for nearly thirty years sharing my body with the Entity that is the Dark One. I did not know that until he found the last token his own real immortal body. After he made the Decision, restored the RULE he separated from me. It was not as easy as we had to decide what is his and what is mine. It is even weirder as it sounds. For example who did Narth share the Hugavh with, him or me?”

Erica smiled.“We agreed that we should not share the same space while he settled his final affairs as Eric.”

She paused and said.“I hope we are still friends, even though I am a real woman and can’t summon swords and axes when I get real angry.”

Shea hugged and kissed Erica. Narth, Har-Hi and all the other hugged kissed laughed and hugged Erica some more.

McElligott said to Stahl watching all this.“You knew that when you said Eric and Erica are now two complete separate persons?”

Instead of Stahl , the Narth Supreme answered.“He knew that since he visited me on Narth Prime, he only understood it however once it happened. ”

“No Narth Supreme despite it all I am still a simple Marine and all that mambo jumbo and meta crap gives me a headache. I am heading back to my war. Ugly and brutal perhaps, but I understand it.”

“Better than anyone, Richard. Better than anyone.”

Richard pointed to the hug fest not far from them.“What about them? Separate them, give each a command of their own?”

“They earned it, yes and I am sure they would be good. But we have plenty of good COs but I doubt even the Dark One could find us another Olafson’s Gang.”

“Send them in a new Battleship to the front then?”

“No because you would be without something to do. Erica would find a way to sneak onto Kermac Prime and either hack the Supreme Wizard to pieces or have him as part of her crew.”

“Both outcomes have its charms.”

“And rob you of your dream to have him sign the unconditional surrender? No Olafson’s gang is not meant for wars and battleships.”

“If Erica is indeed the same as Eric you’d be surprised. He commanded the Devi as good as Harris and fought the Draaks don’t forget that.”

“I have not and by Assembly decision you are the Fleet Admiral now. But would you not agree there be better suited to see what lies at the other sides of those gates. To find out who those Tomradi are and doing what they do best. Explore, stir up the pot and perhaps expand our Union into new galaxies by making new friends.”

“You better give them a bigger ship then.”

“I am way ahead of you on that one. I started a little ship design project, during Olafson’s first mission. The new USS Tigershark is waiting for her crew at the Ross Thorus. The first ship I my add that is build with a mobile self aware AI in mind.”

“You were expecting them to go on another mission after thirty years?”

“No but I prepared for the possibility.”

The End


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