By Leslie Bates
“There are those who believe that they are superior intellects. They choose to believe things which are often contrary to good old common sense. And of course they believe that the rest of us would benefit from listening to them drone on and on about what they believe ... in the aftermath of the loss of the third Mars Direct mission these voices, which had largely been silent since the end of the Final War, rose up and spoke as one saying that we, the Human race, should not waste any further effort in exploring and colonizing other planets until all our problems on Earth were solved. This, given the usual ideology of the self-appointed superior intellects, was taken to mean the establishment of the global socialist collective ... My Uncle John’s* answer to them was that we will NEVER solve all of our actual problems on Earth. And not only should we NOT bet the future of Humanity on the Final Peace actually being final, we should also note that we live in a dynamic universe and that unstoppable extinction events are still possible. Therefore it is absolutely essential that we establish permanent self-sustaining Human communities off of the Earth. On other planets of the Solar System and ultimately on the planets of other stars in our galaxy.”
– Francis Harding, Fifth President of the Federation
Lieutenant Elizabeth Adams, the Captain (Gold Crew) of the Freya Colonial Space Guard Ship Reliable, finished her second set of fifty push-ups for the day and turned over to do her second set of fifty sit-ups, this in turn would be followed by a run on the ship’s treadmill. Doing two sets of exercises a day was not as much a matter of diligence on her part as it was more a means of relieving the inherent boredom of performing a patrol in space.
But it didn’t hurt her either.
The exercise routine also allowed Elizabeth to mentally focus on something other than the most recent message from her mother announcing the birth of a son to her youngest sister Hannah and the often repeated question of when she was going to leave the Space Guard and get married.
Elizabeth Adams was the third of five sisters. Colonial families, even well off upper class families like hers, were generally larger than the families who remained on Earth. But was it really necessary for her to marry and add her own brood to the new generation of colonists as well?
And who the hell was she going to marry anyway?
Lieutenant Adams was called to the bridge before she finished her run on the treadmill. She folded the treadmill back into its stowage slot, grabbed her towel, and wiped off the sweat as she walked to the bridge.
It wasn’t a long walk. The Reliable was a Swift Class multi-mission sloop that the Freya Project had purchased second hand from the Federation Space Force. At 1400 cubic meters in volume the Swift was smallest standard vessel that could generate a stable jump field. And of course the designers would try to stuff as many components as possible into the tiny flattened bottle shape of the hull.
Elizabeth stepped through the sliding hatch onto the bridge. Standing watch on the bridge was the Chief of the Boat. As a general rule he preferred to sit in the navigator’s seat on the right side of cramped control space of the Reliable.
“What do you got, Chief?” Said the Lieutenant.
“Emergence from jumpspace.” Said the Chief. “It’s a two-hundred tonner. Transponder signal says it’s a space force Ashland class.”
Elizabeth picked up the clipboard she kept by the pilot’s seat and searched through the collected notes on it.
“It should be one of the ships carrying the new Governor General of Loki and his party.” Said the Lieutenant. “Transmit the greeting as planned.”
“Should we mention what’s been going on dirtside?” Said the Chief.
“No.” Said Elizabeth. I think he will far more pissed off if it is a complete surprise.”
The Meridian appeared after only six hours and forty-five minutes.
The immense disk of the Meridian was the first to settle on it’s landing legs at the primitive landing facility on Loki. There wasn’t much to the facility, which by the standards of the Federation only qualified as Class E, the lowest rating for an actual starport.
The control tower was a tiny room jutting out of the small whitewashed concrete block building that served as the administration building and terminal with three picture windows that slanted inward. The landing pad was little more than a cleared area that was covered over with gravel. There were also three sheet steel structures constructed as warehouses but with no wares to house.
What passed for a refueling facility was a small pump and a pipe to the nearest small lake. A visiting ship’s onboard fuel purification plant would have to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen and other contaminants.
The barely streamlined brick of the Epping Forest circled the field before she made her landing. She was about one third the size of the Meridian.
The manager of the starport floated his air raft, a gravitic descendent of the Jeep, out to the debarkation ramp of the Meridian. He settled the air raft onto the gravel and jumped out and strode confidently over to the large and obvious authority figure in civilian clothes who was the first to debark from the Meridian.
“Good afternoon, Governor General,” said the starport manager, “I’m Lloyd Robertson, the starport manager. Welcome to Loki, sir!”
The large obvious authority figure went into a fit of booming laughter.
“Um...” the starport manager ummed.
“Sergeant Major Anatoly Stedenko.” The large man introduced himself with an obvious Russian accent. “Formerly of the 58th Security Police Battalion out of Smolensk.”
Lloyd the starport manager stared.
“The Old Man asked me to come along when he got the job. He’s over on the Epping Forest.” Said the retired Sergeant Major.
“If you run over to it now you should catch him before he disembarks.”
Stedenko laughed again as the hapless starport manager leapt back into his air raft to speed over to the Epping Forest.
* John Andrew March, Founder and First President of the Federation. He was not actually an uncle to Francis Harding, the son of British Prime Minister Sarah Harding, but there are some grounds to believe that John and Francis were actually biological cousins.