Stories from the Shepherd Moon: Interviews #1 - After the Storm
(this day-in-the-life filler story is to be inserted after the Epilogue of Shepherd Moon)
Hello, Dear Reader.
This particular story is part of the “Stories from the Shepherd Moon,” and is a fun and funny kind of vignette about a royal event in Mia’s life, covered by the famous Elyran TV personality, Jem Tevann-Losira.
This is what is usually called a “companion piece,” to the story “Shepherd Moon.” Timeline-wise, this follows the epilogue/ending, but has no material contribution to that story. However, it does give answers to some questions you might have about Shepherd Moon tech.
There may be some redundant information, so I hope you bear with me, and you enjoy this little companion piece.
"To find a fault is easy; to do better may be difficult."
- Plutarch, Earth biographer, ambassador and magistrate, 1st Century Earth
"Before we blame we should first see whether we cannot excuse."
- Georg C. Lichtenberg, Earth scientist and writer, 18th Century Earth
What do you know? Haven't you heard of suspension of disbelief?"
- Ed Wood, Earth screenwriter, producer, author and actor, 20th Century Earth
"Tasha, I just got dressed!"
- Prince Ren Tevann-Reshanii-Kerr, at the Great Plains Palace, Elyra, GY 9994
Following are some behind-the-scenes and excerpts from an interview by the Royal Elyran Broadcasting System, with Heir-Apparent Crown Princess Tasha Liaran-Kerr, Crown Princess Amelia Catherine Liaran-Kerr-Steele and Her Excellency, Duchess Sahsha Marie Liaran-Kerr-Delyer, conducted after the events of the Seeker/Shepherd Moon Missions, and just before the inauguration of the new Elyran Republic and the crowning of the Crown Princess.
It had been a while since the events of that first Seeker/Shepherd Moon mission, and a lot had happened since. But Mia, Sahsha and Princess Tasha weren't thinking of anything remotely related to that. They were in one of the interview rooms (Mia would have called it a studio) in the Royal Elyran Communications Institute in Tasha's home city, and they were currently standing around, waiting for the cameraman to do some color and light tests. The about-to-be-crowned-queen was insistent that the people would always see her new family at their best. For the first family of the new Elyran Republic, image was important.
"Tasha, do I really need to wear this?" Mia asked as she fidgeted with the ornamental dress sword of her new royal squadron commander's uniform. The uniform reminded her of a formal man's morning coat, especially with the tails. Except for the royal blue color. And the blue waistcoat, ruffle cuffs and collar, and the tight-fitting white trousers...
The princess herself wore a full set of a royal warrior's armor, including a full breastplate, vambraces, gauntlets, greaves and a short mail skirt. "Stop it, my love," Tasha said. "It is part of the uniform. Get used to it. Look at me." She gestured at her own sword.
"The difference," Mia said, "is that it looks good on you." She leaned down and gave the princess a kiss. Before it could progress any further, Sahsha interrupted them.
"Hey!" Sahsha exclaimed. She had taken to wearing her translator everywhere nowadays, and by now, Mia and Tasha were used to the odd double-sound of Sahsha's voice speaking simultaneously in English and Elyran. She was actually very fluent now, but still used the translator out of fear being misunderstood or committing a gaff.
She went to Tasha, hands on hips and huffed irritatedly. Tasha smiled in delight and turned to Sahsha, took the Terran diplomat's face in her hands and kissed her soundly on the lips.
After a while, Sahsha broke the kiss and tried to get her balance back. "Umm," Sahsha said, trying to catch her breath. "What was I saying?" Tasha and Mia laughed.
Tasha looked her up and down. "It's too bad you didn't choose to wear the clothes I selected for you. You would have looked beautiful. But your EarthForce uniform suits you. You look lovely... in an Earther sort of way."
Sahsha smiled and reached for Tasha's hand.
"Excuse me, ladies," the cameraman said, interrupting them.
"Apologies, lad," Tasha said. "Here she is." Tasha ushered Mia forward.
The taller woman stepped forward. "What should I do?" Mia asked in fluent Elyran.
"Just stand at ease, Your Highness," the cameraman said. "I just need to get some light readings."
After Mia, the two others joined her and the cameraman continued calibrating his video equipment. Normally, he'd just adjust on the fly, but this was the crown princess and the Earther warrior. He didn't mind the little unnecessary make-work chore, if it'll put them at ease.
Other people bustled around them, fixing up the stage and adjusting overhead lights. The three of them sat down and enjoyed a few glasses of the tart-sweet Dixx wine that Mia and Sahsha loved called krahnng.
Krahnng this fresh had almost zero alcohol content, and they treated it like orange juice from back home.
When the cameraman signaled everything was ready, Jem, the planet's most famous video celebrity, came in, dressed in an outfit that Sahsha's mom might have said was a little too froufrou for a grown man. But here in Elyra, that was how most men dressed.
“‘Good morning,’ ladies," Jem said.
"T'chahn," the three of them responded. Sahsha had to give the guy props for trying to put Mia and her at ease by looking up some English phrases. The familiarity by which he addressed them showed that he, too, was of royal lineage.
"So... have you seen the program before?"
The three of them looked at each other and embarrassedly shook their heads no - a gesture Elyrans and most humans had in common.
Jem giggled. "That's all right. Not too many like to watch interview shows. But now that we got you three here, I think they'll watch this one!" He rubbed his hands together in excitement. "So let's get started!"
"You know," Jem said, halfway through the interview, making sure that the camera got his good side, "many Elyrans are quite impressed with Earth technology." He showed them his wrist. "Look at this! I picked this up at the emporium just the other day. It's a genuine Earth timepiece called a Timex. Imagine - a clock on your wrist! And don't ask me how many crowns I had to pay for it."
Mia and Sahsha tried to stop themselves from smiling.
"But what most would like to hear about, I am sure, are those wonderful, umm, cellphones I think they're called. Too bad they aren't available for sale?" Jem's question was obvious.
"Umm, I'm sorry about that," Sahsha said through her translator. "But Earth Government has prohibited the distribution of devices with certain technologies. One of these proscribed technologies is called Phase-Wave. It's a bit like radio except it has unlimited range."
"Unlimited, My Lady?"
“Well, I could place a call to Earth if I want."
"Well," Mia said, "Humans didn’t used to have Phase-wave. It's a fairly new discovery."
"What did you use before?"
"Something called a Seren station."
"Tell me about these Seren stations."
"Well, just before Phase-Wave, there were five Seren stations in the Solar system, whereas now there are none - Phase-Wave made Seren transmitters obsolete, so they were retired. There was a sixth one being constructed near Saturn, but with the discovery of Phase-Wave, they abandoned the project. The Seren stations were on Venus, Phobos station on Mars, Neptune, Jupiter, and one for the Earth on Luna colony, of course.
"A Seren transmitter is really a kind of wormhole generator, but of a kind that allows matter to pass through. Normally, wormholes don't allow matter to pass through without collapsing, but this kind allows light and electromagnetic waves to go through. Even so, it gets... pinched off in a matter of nanoseconds. At least the collapse is predictable, and with no... unusual effects when it does. So Seren transmitters come in pairs - one on each end of the tunnel. Since the wormhole doesn't last long, the pair of transmitters need to be synchronized to a ridiculously precise level so the extraction of light pulses or electromagnetic waves can be coordinated properly, extracting the bits that get through and then properly reassembling them, sort of, as well as re-opening the hole to transmit the next bit.
"These transmitters allow near-instantaneous communication between the major population centers - Earth, the Moon, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Neptune. Saturn had no station then, so they had to limp along with delayed communications.
"Though the stations were hellishly expensive to run, commerce knows no boundaries: even if each used about five hundred exajoules of energy per Earth year to run, each colony was able to keep theirs running, even if they used eighty percent of their total planetary energy output. In the case of Earth, though, this was only twenty percent. And with Mars and its energy-poor ecosystem, they had to resort to extremely large and expensive solar farms, built specifically for that purpose; they didn't want to be left out in the cold like Saturn."
"Exajoule?" Jem asked.
"It's a scientific Earth unit of measure, for measuring large masses or amounts of energy. A term not yet included in the translator databases."
"All right. I'll look it up later. Please continue. This is interesting stuff!"
"For the humans," Mia continued, "the good thing about the Seren transmitters was that, after their retirement, Humans suddenly found themselves with a mind-boggling surplus energy capacity of about three thousand exajoules. Imagine an energy surplus of more than six times the total yearly energy output of old twenty-first century Earth. And with a present human population just fifteen percent the size of old Earth, I dare say, at the time of the Seeker Mission, we were probably the richest single race in the galaxy. This practically-unlimited energy surplus was how EarthForce (the current slang for the United Earth Defense Force) was able to construct a big, new fleet in less than a year.
"Anyway, even though Seren-based communications wasn't really instantaneous, it was almost instantaneous, and it improved our communications by a matter of more than a thousand-fold. Let me illustrate - the distance between Earth and Neptune is between 4.3 and 4.7 billion kilometers, right?"
Jem giggled. "I'll take your word for it."
Mia smiled at that. She should stop using Earth units of measure. "That means a radio signal would take more than four and a half hours to travel from Triton to Earth, and for a Seren signal, it would take about twelve seconds. A vast improvement over conventional communications, but still not as good as Phase-Wave, which was really instantaneous."
"Those are human units of measure again. But don't let that stop you - we'll catch everyone up in post-production. Continue, please."
Mia nodded. "The powers that be on Earth have decided not to share Phase-Wave with our neighbors, but at least Earth did provide the Federation with detailed plans on how to build Seren transceivers... Although I hear no one wants to actually construct them because of the enormous power it would take to run it..."
"You mentioned the present size of the Earth's population. I had heard that it was larger."
Tasha took up the discussion. "The Earth population? Yes, I heard. Ren's team..." Tasha choked on the name. Sudden tears came unbidden to her eyes. Sahsha leaned over and held her hand.
"Thank you, my love, I'm fine." Tasha shook herself of her momentary grief, and cleared her throat. "As I was saying, Ren's science team estimated the Earther population to be forty-five billion... I don't know how much that is in Earther numbers. Mia?"
"Let me think," Mia said. "Let's see, that would be four point nine-six-six billion in Base-10, or 4,966,055,936 to be exact."
"Thank you, dear. Can you believe my wife? She's amazing. So, that means Ren was off by..."
"Over four hundred sixty-nine percent off... or four hundred fifteen in Base-8."
"Why was the prince so far off the mark?" Jem asked.
"Well," Tasha said, "he had made the erroneous assumption that the rest of the human planets were as densely populated as the mother world, which we now know they were not..."
"... so you took command of the Seeker mission. I understand that, like in the Elyran navy, an Earth commander in charge of more than one ship would have a higher rank. I am told the appropriate rank for that would be a 'commodore'..."
"Truth be told, Jem, I was offered that," Mia answered, "but I declined. As a recently-drafted military man... I mean woman, I thought it would cause resentment. As it was, Beth had to be demoted, although temporarily, just so I could take command of her ship."
"Elizabeth O'Connell," Sahsha replied. "She was the Captain of the Seeker before Mia took command."
"My reason for going on the mission," Mia said, "was so that I could be part of First Contact. Benjamin..."
"That's Admiral Benjamin Silverman," Sahsha clarified again, stressing the Earther way of pronouncing the name so that no mistake would be made. "He’s the head of our armed forces."
"That's right. Admiral Silverman insisted that I take command, and that would mean resentment from career military folks who would see me as an outsider butting in. The best compromise I could get with the admiral was a temporary posting as Seeker's captain, and an agreement with Captains Dupont and Okonkwo of the Constellation and the Hermes that Seeker would be the flagship for the mission."
"Well, it was supposed to be temporary. Little did I know..."
"How did Elizabeth O'Connell take it?"
"She didn't like it at first, but now she's become quite a close friend, actually," Sahsha said.
"Indeed," Tasha said. "In fact, she was our, what do you call it, Sahsha? She was the 'maid of honor' in our nuptial ceremony."
"Since we've been talking about the Seeker," Jem said, "I mean, the ‘Shepherd Moon,’ I'm sure a lot of people are curious about it. I've seen many pictures of her. I mean, who hasn't? It's the most famous spacecraft in the galaxy. I have to ask, though - why does it look so different from the other Earth battleships?"
Mia smiled. "Thank you for saying so, Jem. If ever they see this program, I'm sure Beth and the crew will appreciate it. Why is she different, you ask? Well, she's over fifty Earth years old. One of the oldest, in fact, still flying. She came from a time when there were no deflector shields yet, nor skyhooks..."
“Another word probably not in the translation databases yet. That's what we call geostationary orbital tethers. You have five of them here on Elyra."
"Ahhh! The beanstalks!"
Mia smiled. "Yes, the beanstalks. So since they didn't have beanstalks then, all of their spaceships were designed to manage both flight in space and in Earth atmosphere, so resupply, cargo loading and maintenance could be done dirtside. But, all of that can be done in space, thanks to beanstalks. And when ships absolutely need to enter the atmosphere, like shuttles and other smaller ships need to, with deflectors to manage aerodynamic effects and more powerful engines, new Earth ships don't need to be streamlined nor use the atmosphere to assist in lift. This makes their construction faster and cheaper. They're just as functional, but a lot less good-looking."
"Yes. To be frank, Earth ships are as good-looking as, well, Dravidian cruisers... if you know what I mean..."
"Well, you'll be pleased to know, the new ships currently on the drawing board will look a lot more aesthetically pleasing."
"That's good news. How about that thing, what Elyrans are calling Earth min-ku -"
"That means 'lightning' in Elyran," Sahsha explained to Mia.
"How..." Jem was confused momentarily.
Sahsha pointed at her ear. "My translator," she said.
"Lightning..." Mia said. "You mean the inertia converters?"
"Is that what they are?"
"Though I cannot give specifics, I’m able to tell you that our generators are able to convert inertia to radiant energy. That's the 'lightning,' I suppose you're referring to. There are enormous energies involved, but the conversion process limits the conversion to wavelengths in the visible spectrum. Otherwise, Earth ships would have the same effect as an x-ray pulsar, and would fry any object in the path of the generators' beams. There are differences, though. The new ships like the Constellation keep the conversion nearer the red wavelengths whereas Seeker's original converters are less precise so her 'lightning' is white, but with the current modifications, we can actually select the wavelengths that are emitted."
"You mentioned enormous energies?"
"Well, our system is able to manage it. There would just be more... lightning if there's more energy to convert, especially at the end of a long trip."
"In the many engagements where Earthers were involved, we never saw them use atomics. Except that one time, of course. It seems odd."
"Well," Mia said, "Earth people do not like nuclear weapons. It took Earth a long time to recover from its nuclear war, and a lot of people died in that war. The race was almost wiped out. It's therefore not surprising that we don't like atomics... And, although Earth warships all carry nuclear weapons, only a direct order from the fleet admiral can authorize their use. Actually, most of EarthForce wondered the same thing about the Federation and Empire ships..."
"It's no surprise, really, my love," Tasha said. "Creation of the raw fuel for such weapons, and managing that fuel safely, makes atomic weapons quite expensive, therefore our spacecraft only carry two or four low-yield missiles, of types that could be mounted on small ships if need be. Like in my own Talon."
"Really," Mia said, looking at Tasha.
"Really," Jem said. "Most Elyrans know that."
- end -
- Washington DC
- Mistress of Confusion
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.