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Shepherd Moon, Chapter 25: Surprise!

 

Foot-In-Mouth Disease –

The Federation ships that had escaped the nuclear bombs and then went on to clean up the dregs that the Fifth Fleet ships had left had stories to tell as well, but their odyssey paled in comparison with what the Earthers went through. And the Earthers seemed to have yet another magical device that had been able to stop the enemy in its tracks. It was what had saved Colossus from harm.

And even though all the enemy ships had all been captured, the EM field was still there. But Mia wasn’t letting on that it was the Shepherd Moon’s EM field generator that was running.

The reason for this was the presence of the enemy shuttles.

The Gibraltar made a sweep of all the areas where there were Earth and Federation personnel, and deployed shuttles to tow away some of the derelict Detterex ships.

When the Gibraltar signaled the Shepherd Moon with a flash from its inertia converters, Mia ordered her EM field generator turned off.

It was a good thing that the enemy shuttles were moved because, between ten minutes and an hour from that point, several of these shuttles exploded in nuclear fire. There were no Federation or Earth personnel around them so there were no further casualties.

As a precaution, though, Cruiser 99 and her smallships took care of all the rest of the derelict shuttles and fighters, towing them to a single location far enough from everyone that no one would be in danger if any of them were to explode.

As this was being done, to decide on the fate of the surviving Detterex, and the conduct of the cleanup and recovery, a session was called. All representatives attended, and although they were probationary members, the Earthers were invited, as well.

As the most junior members, the Earthers were given a place at the highest tier in Aonta. They found themselves beside the Telcontari and other junior members, but the Earthers didn’t mind. And the session commenced as soon as all race representatives had come in.

The Dravidians tried to make up for their perceived cowardice by volunteering to collect the surviving Detterex in their large ships. But the question came up of where to house them. A call went out and the two Dravidian dreadnoughts that were involved in the battle were dispatched to perform this activity.

Given the distrust of the Detterex, especially after their trick with the bombs, no one wanted to imprison them onboard Colossus. But that was academic, though, since the Colossus’ brig was far too small to contain what ended up to be 1,132 Detterex survivors, (or 602 in Base-10). An Erocii suggested summary execution, but he was shouted down.

The decision was made to imprison them down on the surface of Zeos Three until they could be repatriated to the Detterex Empire, and they looked for volunteers to construct temporary living quarters. Still trying to save face, the Dravidians volunteered to provide all the necessary supplies and equipment while the Telcontari, saying that they were the most resistant to cold, volunteered to do the construction. It was argued that they might not have the expertise and numbers, and perhaps someone else should help the Telcontari.

Captain O’Connell, stood and waited to be acknowledged by a senior race. She was briefed on the protocol, and knew that she was not entitled to ping her bell.

As the discussion raced up and down the debate hall, the Daemon representative noticed O’Connell, and pinged.

“My Lords, Ladies and fellow representatives,” he said after the Assembly quieted down. “It seems we have reached a impasse in the discussion. I would like to call our friends from Earth to speak. Perhaps they may have a suggestion to progress our session.”

O’Connell bowed, as per protocol. “My Lord, my name is Elizabeth O’Connell, captain of the Fifth Fleet flagship Shepherd Moon. I would like to volunteer my people to assist our esteemed colleagues from Telcontar in the construction of the temporary habitats on Zeos Three. We have had training in doing such labor, and our present crew are professional explorers, who we call ‘breakers,’ and are especially trained to break trail and explore. These are the kinds of activities that are part of their training.”

“Thank you, Captain. In behalf of this Assembly, I accept your generous offer.”

“We are honored, My Lord.”

O’Connell let out a sigh as she sat down. “It was hard to keep to these rituals and protocols,” she thought.

The session continued and the cleanup was discussed. It was suggested that each of the races would recover their own ships but the Dravidians offered to do the cleanup and salvage. The Dravidians magnanimously offered to recover all of the derelicts for hauling back to Colossus’ salvage yard, located at the L1 Lagrange point of Zeos Three and the star. They even said they’d do it for the Detterex and Earth derelicts.

This time, the first officer of the Hermes stood, and waited to be noticed, but the Dravidian speaking pretended not to notice her and continued to speak, but at a break in his speech, Tasha pinged.

“I would like to invite our Earther colleagues to speak.”

Commander Iyanda bowed. “Thank you, Lady Tasha. My name is Commander Ndidi Iyanda, first officer of the EarthForce battleship Hermes. I speak in behalf of my valiant crew, and of my captain, Captain M’klele Okonkwo, since, as many know, he, along with about forty of my comrades, perished in the just-concluded battle.”

Tasha bowed. “I and the peoples of the Federation share your sorrow, Commander Iyanda. You and your valiant crew fought so bravely for us. I have met Captain Okonkwo and, although we had not had the opportunity to truly get to know each other, I knew him to be an honorable and gracious being. I am sad to know that he is not among us anymore. We are in your debt. How may we be of service, Commander?”

The commander bowed again. “I thank you for your kind words, My Princess. I beg leave to the Federation to declare that the Hermes is not a derelict ship. She may be grievously damaged but she survives still.” She started to cry silently.

“My dear, take heart. You honor their memory by speaking for your friends and comrades. Please continue.”

“My Princess,” she continued, fighting against tears, “The Hermes has not been abandoned. More than sixty of my shipmates are still there, performing repairs. We apologize but, with great respect, we serve notice that we will repel all boarders. No unauthorized personnel will be permitted to set foot on her until we have her back in fighting condition.”

“My dear, your point is eloquently made. The Federation takes note of your declaration, and the Hermes will not be included in recovery and salvage.”

The Dravidian pinged. “The commander is mistaken. The Earther ship is not functional and is a menace to navigation. It must be towed away and scrapped.”

“Then what do you intend to do with seventy-four Earthers still onboard?” (Sixty in Earth Base-10.)

The Dravidian nervously looked away. “We will assist by transporting them to safer environs prior to our plundering, I mean towing of their ship.”

Commander Iyanda bowed again, and Tasha noticed.

“I see. Commander Iyanda? How would you respond to this kindness?”

“My Princess, I apologize to Councilor Cor if I offend. Though it may be claimed to be a kindness, if we are forced off our ship, we will, with utmost regret, repel these boarders and the Councilor must know this. If Hermes is to be towed, the Fifth Fleet will perform the towing. I apologize that the Councilor and his comrades will have to wait another day to have a chance at examining our technology.”

Someone else pinged – a large and spindly creature that the Earthers did not recognize.

“I applaud Commander Iyanda,” the creature said. “I and my people will be on hand to enforce the rights of the crew of the Hermes, and assist in repelling any boarders. I believe that we owe the Hermes and all the members of the Fifth Fleet anything they might ask, for they have helped to fend off the Detterex, in a manner that none in the Federation can duplicate. I also make an official motion of censure on the Dravidian Mission for putting their desire for commercial advancement ahead of the welfare of Federation citizens.”

“I second!” several delegates called and pinged, and, shortly, the motion was passed overwhelmingly, requiring the Dravidian Mission to pay reparations. The maximum penalty of one million crowns (or 262,144 in Base-10) was levied on the Dravidians.

After that was concluded, another motion was made to offer the crew of the Hermes a berth in the Colossus shipyards so that they might repair their ship.

The Lord Chamberlain (who was a Dravidian) stood to “regretfully” say that there were no available berths at the shipyards.

Commander Iyanda stood again. This time, it was the Telcontari who gave them leave to speak. The commander said that was all right since they preferred to land on Zeos Three instead, and make repairs planet-side. They could do their repairs by themselves. All that they asked was permission. She said they would need about one square kilometer of flat space.

A motion was made to give the Earthers permission to land and occupy any area of their choosing on Zeos Three, with a space up to about twenty-five Earth square kilometers, for them to use in any manner they wished for as long as they wanted (Zeos Three was considered an unusable wasteland anyway, so no one questioned giving the Earthers so much). The Lord Chamberlain, however, made a point of order, and said that such permits require specificity.

It seemed small of the Chamberlain and his motivations were questioned. But it couldn’t be denied that the rules did specify it.

In the end, after several incredibly-long and tedious hours, with the Chamberlain’s constant kibitzing, the wording of the motion was parsed down to a very specific list: the area, of the Earthers’ choosing, would be exactly 21.4212416121 square kilometers (as translated to Base-10 metric), and should be used for facilities for repair of EarthForce and Federation spacecraft, facilities for producing fuel for these spacecraft, facilities to produce food and other consumable supplies, facilities for defense, living space and an embassy. They would also be given a twenty thousand-year leasehold (or 8,192 in base-10) for the amount of one crown, the leasehold to be granted immediately with all requirements and documentation to be accomplished later, provided that it be accomplished within one Zeos Year.

Again, the Lord Chamberlain said that it was required that a specific individual be named as the one responsible for the leasehold. Several beings pinged, one of them being Councilor Cor, but the First Ambassador was the first to speak. He said that it should be held in trust for the Earth, and administered, by the Lady Amelia.

The motion was passed in acclamation.

Now that the housekeeping items were concluded, a motion was made to have the Lord Chamberlain immediately execute the motions just passed.

The Lord Chamberlain bowed. Much to his chagrin, his Telcontari assistants pinged and promised to have it done by end-of-day.

Next to be discussed were the actions of the Detterex.

The facts were: that the Detterex had opened fire first on their courier ship; that the Detterex used subterfuge in order to detonate several nuclear devices, which was outlawed by the Zeos Convention; that the Detterex deliberately detonated these devices in order to bring harm to Federation citizens and destroy Federation property.

Each action was more than a sufficient justification to declare war on the Detterex, so there was no question. Even the “party-pooper” Dravidians didn’t even question it. The motion was passed unanimously and the First Ambassador, known to be the best in the current Assembly at creating such documents, was drafted to write the declaration.

The next item was the question whether it was allowable that they should also declare war on the Tirosians. There were many in the assembly that were not in favor of this, that even if the circumstances clearly indicate that the Detterex and Tirosians were in collaboration, there was no objective proof of this – that it was all circumstantial. Even if they got the Detterex prisoners to corroborate their suspicions, this would not be considered definitive proof, according to current Federation jurisprudence. But as pointed out by the Daemon representative, it might not actually be necessary to do so since they already had sent ships to Elyra, Dixx and Arachnia, where attacking fleets were identified to be en route to.

By a narrow margin, the motion to declare war on the Tirosians was defeated.

A new motion was raised, to ask the Earthers to provide warning if any other worlds were in danger of invasion or attack. It was further amended to ask the Earthers to provide a service to send communiqués to the homeworlds when needed, and to relay communiqués from the homeworlds to Colossus. The Erocii representative pinged and asked if it was necessary to even ask – that, as Federation citizens, were they not required to assist?

No one deigned to respond to that. He was ignored and the discussion continued. (A respectful little Telcontari from the Office of Protocol discretely went to the Erocii, and explained in whispers that none could be compelled to do anything unless the matter was in connection with a need for immediate emergency transport, with the need for emergency evacuation of people, or with an immediate impending use of weapons.)

If the Erocii could blush in embarrassment, he would have. He angrily waved the Telcontari away and turned his attention back to the debate.

-----

Regarding the question raised, O’Connell answered for the Earthers saying that they agreed. However the particulars of the service, as relating to the administrative component, would have to be ironed out later.

A Daemon, one of those who had messages sent to their homeworlds, said that the fees that they were charged before were very reasonable, and asked if that was what they could expect.

Everyone laughed gently at the hirsute alien’s friendly little jibe.

O’Connell smiled and bowed to the Daemon.

“Indeed, My Lord,” O’Connell replied. “Perhaps we can even offer discounts for frequent customers.”

The rest of the assembly laughed and a lot of quips about volume discounts or special pricing for holidays and such should also be arranged.

As the mirth died down, Councilor Cor pinged.

“I would ask the Captain why she is speaking instead of Lady Amelia,” Cor said. “I cannot help but be offended. Why is it that Lady Amelia did not see fit to appear before the assembly?”

O’Connell bowed.

“If I may respond, Councilor,” O’Connell replied, “Lady Amelia is assisting with the recovery and repair of our warship, the Hermes, and is conducting the memorial ceremonies for our dead comrades.”

After a long, awkward silence, Cor cleared his throat (or rather did the Dravidian equivalent of an Earther clearing her throat).

“If that is true,” Cor said, “I feel it is insulting that we were not invited to the ceremony. I feel that we should have the opportunity to pay our respects to your brave comrades who gave their lives in our behalf.”

O’Connell bowed. “Thank you, Councilor, but we had indeed sent a hand-written invitation, as per the custom onboard Colossus, but your executive assistant refused to accept our letter.”

Cor looked a little uneasy. “Then I have to ask why the other representatives were not invited.”

O’Connell bowed again. “Per custom, we had sent all the delegates letters, and everyone had accepted our invitations except for the Dravidian and Erocii Missions. Representatives from the other missions are currently attending the memorial ceremony.”

“Ummm, well, I think the Captain might be mistaken as all the Federation representatives are here in Aonta.”

O’Connell bowed yet again. “All the missions have expressed regret that the heads of their missions could not attend because of today’s session, but they have said that they would send other representatives.”

Cor tried to cast around for another topic. “I wish to file a complaint,” he said. “It is unfair that the Erocii have been singled out because they are our friends.”

O’Connell sighed, and then bowed again.

“Councilor,” she said, “when the messenger approached the Erocii Ambassador with our invitation, he asked if the Dravidians would be attending. The messenger then explained that the Dravidians hadn't accepted the invitation, whereupon the Erocii Ambassador rejected their invitation as well.”

Cor scoffed. “That is an outright lie! You are mistaken, Earther! It is not in the Erocii ambassador’s character to do such a thing!”

O’Connell again bowed. “The message was delivered in the Ambassadors’ Lounge, and there were several witnesses. I am sure the appropriate surveillance videos can be accessed.”

The rest of the assembly was about to break down in laughter by then, and then Cor pinged again.

“It is an insult that such important correspondence was delivered in such a place! I am making a motion, in behalf of the Erocii, for the Earthers to be censured for ignoring protocol!”

At that point, the entire Assembly did break out in laughter.

The motion was passed, however, although it was agreed the censure would be in the minutes, it will not be recorded in the archives (making it unofficial), and that the penalty was the payment of reparations amounting to one crown, which was to be donated to the revolving fund of the Office of Protocol.

Another motion was passed as well, to censure Councilor Cor (not the mission but Cor himself) for willful slander of a fellow sophont, and to require him to pay the maximum allowed for reparations, which was one million Crowns (262,144 in Base-10), and that Cor be expelled from Colossus.

 

Gibraltar Base –

After that session, the news of the defeat of the invading forces back on Earth started making the rounds in Colossus, care of the transmissions received by the Fifth Fleet (Lady Reena and Lady Areeya had “mistakenly” leaked the translated transmission as well as terabytes of video).

It seemed that the invaders, this time exclusively made up of Tiros forces, were easier to defeat despite their fleet being four times the size of the one that attacked Colossus. In fact, the size of the invading force was one of the largest ever seen so far from the Empire. It was made up of 170 capital ships and support craft (or 120 in Base-10), many of them just constructed.

Having been warned of the tactic of the Detterex of using the EM suppression field and Trojan shuttles with nuclear weapons, EarthForce took out all of the smallships first, and then, almost leisurely, took out the capital ships.

The strategy that the Tiros forces intended to implement was “standard,” which was to say, attack with overwhelming force and win by outlasting the enemy. It was to be a war of attrition again, but the thing that they did not anticipate was the Earthers had a virtually unlimited amount of ammunition. Only missiles and similar weapons were found to work in the EM suppression field, so the invaders only had a finite number, whereas the Earthers had rail guns aplenty, with ammunition just lying around to be picked up. The Earthers were literally firing rocks at the enemy, but at enormous velocities. The kinetic energy of each of their rail gun projectiles more than equaled the explosive power of the missiles that were being fired at them. And the Tirosians’ secret weapon – the “Trojan horse” of nuclear bombs hidden in smallships – only worked if the enemy didn’t know about it.

In this war of attrition, the Earthers easily won. In fact, with the brilliant and judicious use of Earth’s FTL ships by Silverman, none of the enemy’s forces were able to get past the orbit of Jupiter. Silverman had used his pre-FTL ships as his main rail gun platforms and used the FTLs as the equivalent of corvettes and aircraft carriers – luring, steering and pushing the enemy closer to the pre-FTLs and harassing and shooting down the enemy’s smallships with the FTLs’ Eagle fighters. The pre-FTLs then just opened fire with a never-ending hail of rail gun projectiles that was like rain in their density. There was, however, some damage on the EarthForce ships from what was called “friendly fire,” but they had coordinated their rail gun volleys sufficiently that this was minimized.

When there was no more resistance, Jupiter’s and Saturn’s massive freight ships supplemented the EarthForce warships to tow all the enemy derelicts, especially the shuttles and smallships, to the L4 and L5 Lagrange points of Jupiter. At that point, the lunar EM field generator was switched off, and there were multiple nuclear detonations within these Tirosian junkyards. These detonations happened between fifteen minutes and four hours from the time the EM suppression field was deactivated. Ultimately, the booby traps were useless.

There were very few Tirosians that were rescued since most had committed suicide when their defeat was inevitable and even the few that were rescued found ingenious means for suicide.

In the end, there were no Tirosian survivors.

-----

Several Dravidian cargo ships landed in the area selected for the Detterex Prisoner-of-War camp, bringing with them the materials needed for its construction. The ships disgorged the supplies and took off. Construction started immediately.

To protect them from the extreme weather, all of the Earthers from DSC Gibraltar that were assigned to construction work were required to wear their pressure suits underneath their regular duty clothes. The suits were not noticed, and everyone made comments about the Earthers’ endurance and ability to weather the extreme cold. And with the standard gravity of Zeos, the work wasn’t as bad as expected. As for the Telcontari, they needed no special protection against the cold.

Prior to construction, the Earther-Telcontari crew melted the snow down completely until the bare ground could be seen, and from there sunk foundations made from rebar-reinforced concrete, and from there, laid down a large, flat, concrete platform from which they would build the one-story structures on.

The materials the Dravidians provided were very basic – massive sheets of aluminum and steel, sheets of insulation, large tanks of various chemicals, resins and liquid polymers, large drums of silicon and quartz, and ingots of various metals. So the Earthers had to use their ingenuity to fashion what was necessary. The little foundry, plant and the various machine shops that the Gibraltar’s crew had erected went into full use, and there was no shortage of material to create the required nineteen hermetically sealed barracks and the required facilities for each. One could say that the Dravidians didn’t really think of what was needed and just got what was available from their shipyard construction supplies and dropped it down on the planet. The Earthers had to fabricate practically everything, even making up their own cement. But with the perpetual sunlight, there was power to spare for any equipment they might need to use, and there was no shortage of manpower, or rather Telcontari-power.

The Telcontari were helpful as trained labor - although they were technically capable, the training that the Earthers had for building such kinds of structures made them better at it. The Telcontari were capable assistants, however, and in less than a week, the prisoner camp was completed, just in time for the arrival of the Detterex prisoners. They were moved into their new homes immediately, with thirty-two to a barrack.

From that point on, personnel from the Colossus police force took charge.

The nineteen one-floor barracks were spread out on a large, featureless concrete expanse surrounded by a tall, smooth, temperature-variance-proof, impact-proof, pressure-proof and totally transparent glass dodecagon wall. Outside, it was surrounded by a series of moats alternately filled with glass-smooth frozen water and razor-sharp broken boron-silicate ceramic shards.

At each of the twelve corners of the dodecagon wall were extremely tall watchtowers topped by pulse and rocket emplacements.

It was the most extraordinary, innovative structure the Federation people, as well as the Detterex, had ever seen. Although the barracks themselves seemed conventional, that was where the conventionality ended. Though the Dravidians scoffed (typical of them) at the structure, saying there were no new innovations, the others just ignored them and marveled at the use of materials in this manner. They asked the Earthers that were packing to leave to explain the logic behind the structure.

They explained that the glass walls were transparent so that there were no places for any escaping Detterex prisoners to hide (they didn’t have the supplies for Crystalline metal, so it was just plain old glass).

The glass’s vitreous surface and interlaced molecular crystalline structure would prevent anyone from climbing it or busting through it, and even if they could, the ice in the moats outside was so hard and smooth, they wouldn't be able to get traction, and the ceramic shards were so sharp, just bumping into them would cause cuts.

As for anyone attempting to tunnel down, the camp was built on top of solid granite.

There was also a full EM detection web care of a “disposable” Earther GPS-type satellite that was in a geosynchronous orbit overhead. The detection web extended to a thousand kilometers in all directions to prevent any vessel from approaching the camp undetected.

There was a lot of leftover material, however, and the Earthers radioed the Dravidians, saying that the material could be picked up any time, but the Dravidians replied saying there was no need to return the excess supplies – they were theirs now, and they could do whatever they wanted with them. O’Connell replied for the Earthers and thanked them. Sarcastically, the Dravidians said, “you’re welcome.”

The Gibraltar transported all this “leftover” material to their new selected site. The supplies would allow them to get a jump on the construction.

The site, which would later be called New Gibraltar Base (because the people working the site were from the Gibraltar), was a large, flat plateau that the Fifth Fleet commanders had picked – Lady Reena, Lady Areeya, Captain Tolar, Captain Rexx, Captain Ehlar and the Second Cruiser Commander had highly recommended the location. It was a flat granite plateau of over fifteen square kilometers that was raised about a thousand kilometers above the plains below by ancient volcanic action, with sheer granite escarpments surrounding it. Their leasehold also included the six square kilometers around it, as well as all approaches to the plateau. The six had gotten together and researched the entire surface, and knew that this was the best location for the Earthers’ new base: It was geologically stable, raised above the surface providing clear approaches for ships, totally unapproachable from the ground and provided the most gorgeous view of Zeos Three’s snowscape. (Mia didn’t tell them, however, that the undeclared five square kilometers still remaining on their leasehold would be at another location, and she wasn’t telling them where.)

The Hermes was still not there, but construction had already started. The Fifth Fleet ships had taken turns to land dirtside so that they could repair whatever damage they had incurred during the battle, which was mostly minor. The most significant damage was when they nudged the Detterex cruisers away, and this only required a bit of hammering and a bit of spit-and-polish, and they were okay. They had quickly vacated the “facilities,” such as they were, allowing the Elyran, Dixx and Arachnian Fifth Fleet ships their turn.

The Earther FTLs were resupplied except that they had missile holds that were now about one-fourth empty. They had no stockpiles anywhere in the Zeos system so there was no opportunity to top up their missile supplies. As a compromise, they filled the empty holds with ammunition for their rail guns, manufactured from the supplies left over from the camp construction.

As for their other non-Earth ships, the Elyrans, Dixx and Arachnians did have their own depots on Colossus, and were able to restock and resupply their ships with the ordnance they needed.

After Cruiser 99 lifted off, this left Gibraltar Base vacant, awaiting the arrival of Hermes.

Later on in the day, the Hermes had arrived in orbit, towed by the Windsor. The Shepherd Moon and Constellation took over the towing, and Windsor turned away to go into a synchronous orbit above Gibraltar Base.

Thankfully, some of Hermes’ anti-gravs were still functional, and Constellation and Shepherd therefore had no difficulty towing her. The four dozen or so cables that each ship had tethered to the Hermes were more than enough for the job.

The Federation observers that had been tracking them were dumbfounded – to tow ships using actual, physical cables was unheard of. How primitive, they thought, but then, when they thought of the effects of tractor fields and how they could affect the seriously-compromised structure of the Hermes, they thought it was a simple and ingenious solution to a very tricky and complicated problem. They quickly made a one hundred-eighty-degree turn in their opinion, and they avidly observed how the Earthers would manage getting Hermes down to the surface.

First, the Hermes was surrounded by her sister ships, all of which had extended their gravity fields around her. As they entered the atmosphere, the surrounding wind and ambient air was not to big a factor. They entered Zeos Three’s atmosphere slowly, and descended at a very, very slow twenty meters a second.

-----

The trip down was excruciatingly slow, but it was free of incidents. The damaged Hermes creaked ominously all the way down, but she didn’t break, and in about an hour, they were setting her down on Gibraltar Base’s new shipyard intact. At the moment, though, it could hardly be called a shipyard – it was more an empty piece of extremely hard granite.

As the dozen or so spotters declared Hermes secure, all the towing cables were released and the Shepherd Moon and Constellation pulled up and away.

On the ground, seven Marines fired grenade launchers into the space above Hermes, with the grenades exploding directly above her. They did this three times. The grenades were not dangerous – they were training grenades, with more flash than actual explosive bang.

Subtly, and with respect, the Daemon representative leaned over to the Earther beside him and asked what that signified.

The Marine explained that it was called a Three-Volley Salute, which signified respect for the dead that had been put to rest, and that everyone could now move on.

“A most appropriate tradition,” the alien said. “My condolences to you and your comrades, warrior.”

“Thank you, My Lord.”

Earlier, Mia and a small contingent of marines had also attended a similar ceremony onboard Colossus for the crews that perished in the nuclear suicide bombs of the Detterex. She made a point of being visible, and was courteous to everyone, including the Dravidians and Erocii. The Erocii contingent was noticeably isolated since many blamed the Erocii commander for the disaster. The Earth party would have been gladly included in their little groups as they chatted, but the Dravidians made a point of saying the Earthers were not full-fledged members of the Federation yet, and were not entitled to much, except for actually being present.

Nevertheless, the Earthers invited everyone to their own memorial ceremony including the Dravidians and Erocii, even though it turned out those two didn’t want to attend.

At that point, the Mud Turtle shuttle that everyone knew as the “Admiral’s Barge” came and landed near the Hermes.

Mia stepped out and acknowledged the salute of the officers that met her. She went to the remaining crew of the Hermes that were standing at attention and in parade formation.

Mia acknowledged the salute of her Hermes’ First Officer, Commander Iyanda. Mia embraced her and continued down the line. She had a few words with each, and at the end of the line, she saluted the gathered assembly.

With Nick and Commander Iyanda, Mia then went to the gathered observers and gave the representatives a bow. Those that knew about it extended their right arms and “shook hands” with the Admiral Earther-style. After a few pleasantries with each delegate that was there, she took her leave. She asked the two little protocol Telcontari officers to be summoned.

Mumu and Pinpin, the two officers from the Office of Protocol ran over and stood in front of the Admiral. They saluted in the manner that they saw the Earthers did. Mia chuckled, but seriously returned the salute.

“Dear friends,” she said to the two diminutive Telcontari, “I and my crew take leave of you and the wonderful people of Colossus. As you know, EarthForce’s Fifth Fleet has been drafted to participate in the defense of Elyra. In order to rendezvous with the Federation squadron now en route to Elyra, the Fifth Fleet must leave now.

“I therefore leave the responsibilities of our diplomatic office and all diplomatic matters to my right-hand man and adjutant.” Nick stepped forward and bowed.

“In matters of defense and military matters, I leave that with Commander Ndidi Iyanda, acting commander of the Hermes.” Ndidi bowed as well.

“Know that my friends are fully empowered and are ready to represent the people of the Earth, and shall have full authority to act as my representatives.

“As for Earth’s contribution to the defense of Colossus, I leave EarthForce battle cruisers Windsor, Gibraltar and Hermes, and they all shall be reporting to Commander Iyanda. Commander Iyanda and her crews will do their utmost to defend Colossus and her people.

“I am communicating this to you now in your capacity as representatives of the Office of Protocol. Please take this as my formal notice.”

The two bowed, and Mia turned to leave.

As she, Nick and Ndidi started walking to the Admiral’s Barge, Mia felt a tug on her sleeve. She stopped and turned to see Pinpin. Her companion, Mumu, was trying to stop her and was pulling her back.

Mia stopped and gestured for the other two to continue on.

“Hey, Pinpin,” Mia said. “What’s going on?”

The two knelt on one knee, with heads bowed.

“My Lady,” Mumu said, “forgive my partner for her impertinent behavior. I will chastise her immediately…”

“Hush, Mumu. Pinpin, what is it?”

“Mistress, I apologize. After all of the service your people have given us, the sacrifices you made, and the insults you have had to endure, I am ashamed. As apology, I would like to offer the services of my people, and, in particular, of myself and my partner. I am so desperate to show you that you are loved, that you are honored, that you are respected. Mistress, you must not leave thinking otherwise. Please let us come with you and help you. We will not disappoint. We will do our best to be a credit to you. Please, Mistress!”

“Stand up, my dears. Please.”

The two of them stood and looked up at her. “She is crying,” Mumu said to Pinpin in an awed whisper.

She went to the two and embraced the little Telcontari.

“My dears, you have touched my heart. I am full to bursting. Bless you two. To have found friends in a place where we didn’t expect to is like a drink in the desert. I am so honored and humbled…” She let them go.

“I am so happy, Mistress.”

“But, dearest child, do not be hurt when I say that I cannot accept your service.”

The two looked at each other and hugged. They keened like crying little children.

“My dears, my dears, listen to me. Do not forsake your current task. It is important and necessary. You must continue on. If you are not there, then those that would seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the people will have free reign. You, my dears, are the gatekeepers. You must be there and protect. And… other than that… the reason I cannot accept your service is because we do not want to put others in harm’s way. It is how we Earthers are. Know that it is our honor to protect you.

“If you wish to be of service, please assist Nick and Ndidi. Help them navigate the morass that is Colossus and the Federation. We are mere babes to the Federation, and we need a mentor and a teacher to guide us. Promise me.”

“We are honored, Mistress,” Pinpin said. “We promise.”

Mia hugged the two again, leaned down and gave each a kiss on the cheek.

The two held hands as they watched Mia climb aboard the shuttle they called the Admiral’s Barge and take off.

“We promise, Mistress,” Pinpin whispered. “Hurry back.”

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About the author

Bobbi-C

  • Washington DC
  • Mistress of Confusion

Bio: Bobbi Cabot is a transgender girl in her thirties (35 y.o. as of 2016), who transitioned in 2005. She is known as "Roberta J. Cabot," "Bobbie-C," "Bobbie," "Bobbi" and "Bobbi-C" in the sites where she posts her stories.

Though not a professional writer, Bobbi is under the delusion that she writes passably well and indulges this delusion by sometimes posting stories, which is, thankfully, very seldom.

Bobbi's day job (the phrase "day job" is hereby stressed) involves being the big cheese of the overseas BPO practice of a Top 100 computer technology corporation.

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