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Chapter 13

July 12, 2089

“Captain Crosby, I really don’t think the owners—of which the United States government is one—really are too concerned with any protestations of the scientists in the crew,” Ambassador Jesus proclaimed. “This vessel will not leave this solar system without a State Department–sanctioned and United Nations–sanctioned liaison and security team fully acknowledged by the UN as the staff and ambassador of the first-ever Interstellar Relations and Commerce Embassy to Proxima. I hope you can understand this position-slash-predicament.” Charles paused to let his comments sink in to the captain. With only four days until departing the Moon for the interstellar insertion point, such an addition to the crew was yet another—this time major—disruption. He only briefly allowed himself to look over the captain’s shoulder out the viewport at the silver landscape of the Moon below stretched beneath the stern of the starship. They were currently over a desolate area in the sunlight and there was nothing but the silver and gray-cratered Moon as far as he could tell.

“Ambassador…Jesus—” Crosby stuttered over the name and was interrupted.

“Just call me Charles.” He smiled.

“Er, okay. Charles, I asked about governmental liaisons two years ago even before I was named captain of the Samaritan. Why now?”

“Simple enough, I guess,” Charles replied. “Government moves at the speed of molasses in most cases. And the fact that the president’s party is in a precarious position heading into next year’s election cycle might have something to do with it. Honestly, we have plenty of time to ‘train’ along the way, plus, we’ll be out of your way unless we can help or the situation requires interaction.”

“Adding Dr. Gilster to the roster was difficult enough. This is a big change and it will totally piss off the scientists. That whole ‘situation requires it’ part. What the hell does that mean?” Captain Crosby was clearly uncomfortable with the situation. Charles could see his face growing red with anger. “Am I the captain of this ship or not? Are you going to start interceding in my decisions? Just exactly when will the ‘situation require’ your interaction, Charles?”

“Sam—can I call you Sam?” The captain just nodded at him. “Sam, I know absolutely nothing about running a space vessel, let alone the world’s first-ever interstellar space vessel. You are our first-ever starship captain and I’m not going to get in your way in fear of my own horrible death in space! I can assure you that I’m only here to set up interactions with the Proximans once we get there. And, of course, anything we can do to help along the way.”

“Why is your ‘staff’ and your equipment manifest so filled with weapons and such, then? How can I be certain that you are not here to mutiny once we’re underway?”

“Sam, seriously, my staff was directly picked by the president’s personal security force within the Secret Service and by the nationl security advisor. These are not individuals with a mission of a mutiny. Their mission is to protect me and the citizens of Earth on this vessel if something goes wrong between us and the Proximan people.” Charles wasn’t certain that Crosby was buying the argument, but for the most part it was true.

For the most part.

“So, I’m asking you once again…how can I prevent your armed support team from mutiny?” Captain Crosby pressed.

“Okay, okay, I have an idea. You have a security force on the ship, right?” Charles leaned back in the guest chair of the captain’s office and exhaled lightly.

“Yes, of course we do.”

“Alright then, until we make it to Proxima or some other emergency were to occur, four of the five-person security detail will be under the command of your chief of security. You can lock up their weapons other than whatever you deem appropriate for onboard security. The fifth is my personal security and will have to be my shadow per her job description. She will relinquish all but her sidearm and body armor as per standard security detail equipment. The rest of my staff of nine persons will take on shipboard duties per your assignment and as per their skill sets.”

“And what if we don’t need those skill sets?” Crosby raised an eyebrow. “What then?”

“Captain, we’ll stay out of the way, unless you need us for something. We are literally just hitching a ride here. Again, my team are not starship people. We’d end up crashing into an asteroid or something if we tried to fly this ship.” Charles laughed lightly, hoping to relax the captain’s mood.

“Alright then, Charles. We’ll try it your way. Your people can come aboard. Please have them report to the XO for quarters and arrangements. Don’t make me regret this. If I get so much as a whiff of mutiny, I’ll either lock all your asses up in a hold down by the engine room or I’ll toss you out the damned airlock. Does that copy?”

“Uh, yes. I’ll have my people start loading on then.” Charles stood to shake Crosby’s hand.

“You want to help? Truly?” the captain asked.

“Of course we do.”

“Well then, I have a bit of a sticky situation. Joaquin Luce, whom I think you’ve met before, is forcing his way onto the ship for a ‘launch ceremony.’ That son of a bitch couldn’t care less if we launched or exploded,” Crosby explained. “But until we’re out of this system I have to pay lip service to the damned politicians.”

“I know him well. He was the biggest opposition to even communicating with the Proximans from the start.” Charles recalled Luce and they weren’t nice memories. In fact, Charles recalled him as just a bureaucrat who had been the most outspoken voice against contact with the Proximans. His following was large enough that it propelled him into a seat within the European Parliament. “He’s been meddling in the interstellar affairs since the original hearings on first contact with the Proximans. He’s a political hack only concerned with his own growth of power. I’m not going to miss him at all once the star drive is kicked in.”

“Good. We’re on the same page, then. You’re a politician. You take care of all that for me. I have too much to do to prepare for launch,” Crosby said gruffly. “In fact, that’ll be your ship duty. Keep politics away from me as best you can. Hell, we’ll even call you the ship’s political officer. Ain’t that a hoot? Just like an old Cold War–era Soviet ICBM naval vessel. We have ourselves a political officer…”

“Captain, I’d be more than happy to oblige. I’ve had more than my share of days as an ambassador dealing with political situations that are absolutely no fun and for the most part useless, if not counterproductive.” Charles showed a toothy grin. “I’ll get right on that.”

“Good, then. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got a lot of other things piling up that need my attention.”

“Right. I’ll get with the, uh, XO. Where do I find him?” Charles asked.

“Mr. Clemons brought you here to my office…oh hell…” Crosby got up from his desk and walked to the doorway. He tapped at the panel to the right of it and the hatch hissed open. “Artur!”

Aye?” The man who had led Charles to the captain’s office appeared almost immediately. Charles now vaguely recalled him introducing himself as Artur. “Show our new political officer here around and get his staff oriented and moved in. He’ll fill you in on our conversation—and if you have further questions, don’t bother me with them!”

“Aye, Captain!”

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