He hated that sign. He hated it because it mocked him. He hated it because it promised relief but also threatened danger. It could be neither enjoyed nor avoided. He hated it because he really needed it now. He had timed this class break carefully. By his calculation, he should be able to get into the boysroom, attend to business, and then get to class just as the bell rang. Hopefully none of his tormentors would be there, though as well he knew, none of them were in the least concerned about the odd tardy mark or detention. So it was always a possibility they’d be up to trouble. He hated that sign.
Glenn Yelland was thirteen and of slight build. He was also brilliant and did not go out of his way to disguise the fact. His French and Spanish were cultivated and fluent; he had devoured Cervantes in Spanish and Proust in French. He loved chemistry, loved solving problems both in the class room and at home. He played chess at a level well beyond his years, he loved baseball with the different levels of strategy inherent in the game; however, he was high on the target list of some of the jocks, so there was no chance of playing baseball; he hated confrontation, and he hated being bullied, but he also had a strangely aggressive sort of attitude. He was aware of the old saying, ‘in for a penny, in for a pound.’
He was well read and understood it. But if he had thought about it, he would have stated that circumstances had already put him in for a penny, so he may as well go for the pound. And it was true; his mouth always got rolling and made things worse. It was as if his mouth thought he was Richard the Lionheart in disguise and spoke its own mind knowing that all he had to do was draw his mighty sword and smite his enemies a horrible blow. He liked to dream of himself as Richard the Lionheart. Particularly as he had recently read that the real Richard would rather go to bed with a squire than with a maiden; a sentiment with which he was in complete sympathy, even if he had only just realized it. So, if he was going to be bullied, it was going to be a fight and he was at least going to get some verbal jabs in.
He looked quickly about the hall, noted none of his usual enemies, and darted through the door to the boysroom hoping his move would go unnoticed. He got around the privacy partition at the doorway, into the main room when he caught the smell of cigarette smoke and knew that his plan had failed. He was probably in for it. If they really worked him over, or pissed on him or something like that, then he’d have to go home when they were finished so he’d be in trouble for cutting school. He was, once again, in for a penny. But somehow, it did not occur to him to retreat.
“Lookee here,” Nephi Swartz sneered, “if it ain’t Old Yeller come to suck our dicks.”
At that point, Richard the Lionheart took over. He set his notebook on the edge of a sink and marched to the urinals where he relieved himself before the confrontation could begin. This was a calculated act. Now he was in for a pound. Glenn knew that Nephi wasn’t exactly quick of thought or motion, so at least he could get his business done without worrying about pissing his pants if they really worked him over.
His action seemed to freeze the room. He had taken the initiative and was able to complete his business before his enemies lurched into movement.
There were four kids in the boysroom not counting Glenn. Nephi and two of his hangers-on were close to the window which was partially open. They’d been the smokers each of which had to take a few last drags and then get rid of the cigarette butt. The fourth boy was older and was drying his hands with paper towels when Glenn entered. He did not seem to be with Nephi, but you could never tell.
Nephi stood looking for a long moment. “Sumbitch,” he exclaimed absently and started toward Glenn balling his fists. Glenn waited for the last minute and then skipped easily away from Nephi, who had apparently thought he was just going to wait for the attack.
“You’re still a genuine moron, fatso,” Richard the Lionheart observed conversationally as he regarded the older, seriously larger, and belligerent youth approaching him; for a moment he considered grabbing his notebook and dashing for the door, but it was a fleeting moment for he was of the lion’s heart.
“Git him,” Nephi ordered and the three of them closed on Glenn.
The fourth boy stood watching by the sinks. Then he dropped his paper towels on the floor opening his mouth.
A stall door flew open with a bang and a sixth boy entered the room. And quite an entrance it was. “At ease!” He ordered as if he expected to be obeyed. Four of the boys looked at him frozen by the instant and the entrance. But Nephi was a little slower, having put himself in motion toward Glenn, he remained in motion. The new arrival stepped quickly forward and spun Nephi into some sort of arm bar and then levered him to the floor. Nephi was on his knees, with his cheek jammed against the tile floor and his left arm levered up in the grip of the new boy who was quite a sight.
“Errk. Eek,” Nephi commented.
“Everyone stand easy or I’ll break his arm. Then I’ll break the arm of whoever made me break his arm. I do it well, yer know.” He smiled around. He was calm, breathing easily, and immaculate.
His appearance, his effortless capture of Nephi the largest and worst bully of the school, combined to command the attention of the four who could have moved had they been able. He was wearing an unusual sort of cap, it had a small visor but there was a short red and white plume on one side of the cap, and a fairly ornate insignia on the other. It was khaki. So was his shirt. It was rigid with starch. There were what appeared to be military ribbons above his left pocket, there were two stripes on each short sleeve, and he had a brown leather belt and a holstered pistol around his waist. A lanyard ran from the grip of the pistol up and looped around his neck. It was like the Mounties wore only it was khaki colored. His khaki shorts were starched and the creases looked sharp enough to cut. He wore knee socks with flashes of color at the tops. His shoes were sturdy and highly polished. He looked very military, but nothing at all like the ROTC cadets they knew from school.
He released his hold on Nephi’s arm, put a shoe to Nephi’s elevated butt, and pushed him asprawl on the floor.
“Fer now stand easy. Yer all under arrest. I am Corporal Young of the First Battalion of the King’s Own Guards Fusiliers.
“Carlos, this one to Farragut jankers.” He gestured toward Nephi on the floor and Nephi disappeared with a snap and a flash. He calmly regarded the remaining four, “Sometimes yer can save ‘em, sometimes not.” He shrugged.
“Now, as fer the rest of yer. By the authority vested in me by King Justin III of Glorious Repute, King of Ellendale and of the Elven Dominions beyond the Stars — one of which this here happens to be: I hereby drafts yer into the yeomanry, er militia I guess yer’d say here in America. Yer the first members so yer ought be proud.”
He looked approval on Glenn. “I don’t know yer name, but I know that great things will be expected of you.” He grinned.
He looked long approval on the tall boy who’d been at the sink. “Don’t know you neither, but I’m thinkin’ you were gonna be helpin’; so that’s a very good thing indeed.”
He looked a glare at Nephi’s first minion, a rumpled, slightly overweight teen with savage acne. “Who’re you?”
“Ah. Er. Um.”
“Come on! Ain’t got all day. What would yer mum say, hangin’ out wi’ fat bullies an the like? I ask yer?”
“Got no mom. Got no dad.” He seemed to hover on the brink of tears.
“Right. We’ll fix that.”
The final teen stood transfixed. He sought to answer the expected question, “I’m Ed Carpenter, uh, sir.”
Corporal Young gave him a long glare. “Right, then. Yer to start studying with my man ‘ere. Yer to do as he sez. Yer ta protect him too. Also, no more fookin’ with other kids, neither. An yer to stop it if yer sees somebody else tryin’ it. It ain’t regimental, so see to that. Yer better than that now.” He gestured at the other two boys, “They’ll ‘elp yer if ya need it.
“Now I’ve a rescue to do in Austin, so we’ll all meet again, Saturday, Twelve hundred hours, by the cannon on the court house lawn. I know who you are, don’t make me come looking for you. Carlos.”
And there was another snap flash and Corporal Young, a decorated Fusilier, disappeared with the orphan.
“Oh my God,” whispered Ed.
“Yeah,” thought Robert Radziwill out loud.
“I wonder who Carlos is? We all saw that, right? Right? Well, we’d better not try and tell anyone cuz they’d never believe us. We’d better get to class,” Glenn commented taking charge without knowing it. “I wonder where they all went. Don’t forget you guys, noon Saturday at the court house. We better not miss that.”
Ensign Karl Gustav, a recent graduate of the first class of the King’s new military academy, had only recently joined the 13th Regiment of Foot. He was the only Trollian officer in the King’s service at this time who was not serving in the Trollian regiment, but there were four more currently at the military academy and two at the naval academy.
He had been at the regimental depot for two months after graduation during which time he had been thoroughly indoctrinated into the customs, traditions, and usages of his regiment. He knew that it was an old regiment, the picture of a private that hung in the anteroom of the officers mess, was dated 1745 and he knew that the regiment was older than that, having been originally raised in 1685. It was a calm, experienced and capable regiment composed primarily of the Bwca.
Then things began to happen. He was assigned to the North American Commando with 12 privates. They had taken the train to Portsmouth where they had waited for what at first appeared to be a rust bucket, but was actually only disguised as a rust bucket. Inside she was a comfortably outfitted and smoothly operating transport ship assigned to the North American Commando. He had a cabin in officer’s country and enjoyed the camaraderie of the wardroom.
He had alarmed his men by insisting on an hour of calisthenics on the after deck every morning at 0600 hours; he impressed his men by participating in the exercises.
They had arrived in the New Orleans of Earth and the bustle and activity of Earth seemed frenetic when compared to the basic quiet of Earth Prime. That evening, a nondescript tug came alongside and he and his party were transferred. Like the Moonraker the tug was anything but nondescript on the inside. They shifted back to Earth Prime and started up the river to Camp Farragut, the base of the North American Commando in complete comfort. Their new base was located on the heights of what was known as Vicksburg on Earth. There were no dams or levees on the Mississippi of Earth Prime and they didn’t want to get flooded out. He remembered that they had studied the Vicksburg Campaign at the academy and he thought that was probably as much a reason for the selection as the heights. After all, there were other heights along the river that would have been just as safe from flooding and nothing about this location on Earth Prime gave it any strategic significance whatsoever.
He was met at the dock by a sharp young lance corporal of mounted infantry. With very few questions, the lance corporal determined all he needed to know about the young officer. He immediately appointed Private Edwardes to be the young ensign’s batman.
“You’ll need to report, sir. The OD’s office is up that street. On the parade ground. Flagpole in front.
“No non-coms from yer regiment here might let yer colonel know,” he hinted. Then he gathered up all the soldiers and whisked them away with effortless efficiency leaving Ensign Gustav and Private Edwardes to get on with it.
At the office he met a long service regular, Company Sergeant Major Alan Cyffylog of the 24th who had the duty that day; he was also pleasantly surprised to meet the commanding officer of Camp Farragut, Captain Lewys also of the 24th, who had come down specifically to welcome him to his new station. Sergeant Major Cyffylog then took him for a quick tour of the facilities, pointing out locations for planned facilities, such as the zeppelin field and mooring tower.
It really was very military in the sense of being precisely laid out, with barracks, stables, offices, a parade ground and other buildings; but it didn’t look much like a military installation on a war basis or one worried about attack.
At breakfast the next morning, he was introduced to the other officers on the base and he felt that his reception was cordial. Lt Georges Lord Winchelsee, of the Guards Lancers volunteered to complete his familiarization with Camp Farragut and, more importantly, brief him on the function of the North American Commando.
“Been here right from the beginning,” Lt Lord Winchelsee began.
Karl noticed that the lieutenant’s left leg was very stiff. Like all good soldiers Karl could read medals, and he’d noticed that the lieutenant wore the ribbons for the Coeur du Lion and the Trollian War. It was no great deductive leap to conclude that the lieutenant had been grievously wounded in the war with his people.
“Took a hit from your lads during the war. That was a fair and honest fight. Though I’d just as soon not have taken a hit. I’m glad to make your acquaintance.
“One of the interesting things about this operation is the duality. His Nibs feels that we increase our intelligence gathering ability by operating on Earth as well as here on Prime. That’s why the Moonraker docks in New Orleans. I’m told he wants to use some trucks as well as the tug for supply down the road.”
They had been standing on the veranda of the officer’s mess. “Ah look, here come our mounts,” Georges observed pointing as two lovely horses were brought to the veranda, by two teenage boys who were very casually uniformed in blue jeans, cowboy boots, and t-shirts. They wore, however, army forage caps in the correct manner. The officers mounted and the boys adjusted their stirrups. “You lads hie round the mess and tell the barman I told you to get a nice cold Coke. Icy cold. Coke, mind!
“These are an American breed known as Tennessee Walkers.” He turned back to Gustav. “They’ve a wonderful gait, smooth and sure footed. We bought them locally. I’m going to buy a stud and several mares and ship them home as soon as I can work out the arrangements. I’m hoping Copenhagen will make it easy.
“We’re an off shoot of the Rescue Commando as I guess you know. So we do the rescue thing regularly. The two lads that brought the horses round were rescued from abuse. One from a place they call Florida, and I forget where the other one’s from. ‘North’ something. Or was it ‘South’ something? Anyway, they’re good lads and I might give ‘em a position if they want to go Prime.
“We’ve some absolutely ace non-coms who do most of the work. That permits us to attend to our primary duty. As you know, a good officer’s primary duty is to provide style and tone, as well as give the occasional vital hand signal.” He chuckled happily. “Also we mostly use Bwca troops for the actual ops. No pointed ears and of course they can move like smoke. Be sure and tell your Colonel to send you a first rate non-com. Otherwise your lads might be a bit overworked.
“But we also support the local students in their anti-gun campaign. That’s a major interest from ‘On High’ so there’s that. I don’t know, for sure, but I imagine you’ll be doing that sort of work.” He pulled on his ears, “After all, you don’t have a pointy-ear problem, either.”
Colin and Nancy were on the upper bridge of the Shenandoah as she loafed along on a training flight. The upper bridge, on the original design of this zeppelin, had been for machine guns to protect the zeppelin on bombing raids over London. But now it was a secondary conning station and, as it was set-up today, a pleasant lounge where His Serene Highness, the King’s Earl Martial, might summon the courage to propose marriage to the daughter of a duke.
They were going to run down to the Channel and then go south for a bit timing their return to base at just past sunset. The trip would provide some experience for the trainees that were the majority of the crew; but of course, they went on training flights on a regular basis so this one just had a dual purpose.
“So,” Colin began.
“Lovely lunch wasn’t it,” Nancy contributed. “I knew I loved flying!” She stood at the highly polished aluminum railing that provided a handhold and support in front of the plexiglass panes of the bridge windows. “Just look at those odd clouds!”
They stood for a moment looking. “It’s all about duty, isn’t it?” Nancy continued watching as the cloud seemed to shift in shape and change appearance as the zeppelin’s movement caused the view to constantly change. In the normal course of events, Nancy had seldom moved any faster than her horse.
“Well I hope it’s not just duty,” Colin offered. “Look how we’re moving to stay well clear of that cloud. Captain Flemming is doing a good job. We’ve studied the history of zeppelin operations and it’s amazing how some people thought they could just fly through anything. The namesake of this ship was destroyed in a line squall.
“I hope there’s more to it than just duty,” he returned to the original comment. He had spoken to his mother at great length about her relationship with his father. She had tried to explain that she loved his father totally, and that part of that love was the sure realization that he was different. That he had a different role to play. She always knew him as an Elven soldier. He would never be off to work in the morning and home to read the paper and pet the dog at night. She understood that she would be doing the work of parenting largely by herself yet she still loved him without condition. “More than just duty,” he repeated.
“Of course there is. But let’s not forget that we are different. If you were just a soldier, and Justin was, say, an attorney; neither of you would be looking to marry and, if you wanted children, you could easily adopt. But you’re not. And the same can be said for me and Cece. I mean, were not just horsey ladies with a farm in the country. We can hardly justify our estates and titles, if we don’t grasp that we have them because of the service of our ancestors. Service to our nation. Service to the fabric of our land. More is expected of us for that reason. Because of who we are and because of where we are, our duty is greater. The path of that duty is clear.”
“That’s all quite true. And I find I mostly enjoy my duty. I like to say ‘yes’ and I like to tell our folks how much I appreciate them and their service.” Colin looked over the slowly moving horizon. He smiled, “You know, I like you very much. You’re a wonderful person. I think that we can make this work. I think we can be great friends and be of great service to our people. So. I guess.
“Will you marry me?”
Nancy dimpled. “Yes. Yes. I think I’d like to do great works with you. And with Cece. And with Justin of course.”
“Well that’s great. When first I met you, I guessed that you really wanted more from life than to ride horses and worry over brood mares and breeding programs. We’ve a lot of work to do.” He’d been looking into her eyes. “Steward!”
He looked up startled by the prompt response. “May we have some champagne, and canapés, please?”
“Of a certainty, sir.”
The refreshments arrived almost instantly. There was the gentle pop of an expertly drawn champagne cork and their flutes were filled.
“I think they were hovering. Waiting for you,” Nancy smiled and sipped.
“Oh. And there’s this,” and he handed Nancy a small white leather box with a brilliant star cut ruby ring inside.
Rodger and Monty were enjoying breakfast. Turbo was outside the dining hall worrying a bone. The same cook who’d given Turbo the bone had given him a bowl with some raw hamburger meat with two eggs broken over the top. “Eggs is good fer ‘is coat yer knows,” he’d advised as he showed them where to tie Turbo so he’d not be disturbed with his breakfast. Then he’d shown them into the “mess hall” and told them quickly how it all worked. They went through the line and enjoyed a complete and sumptuous breakfast.
They had been checked in last night by the night watch, that worthy had given them their room and told them to get some sleep. Someone would be along in the morning to help get them settled. They woke early and were given directions to the mess hall; there, they were told they were early, but breakfast would be served soon. So far, so good. The three of them were together, they had a room, they had beds, they were clean and their new clothes were clean and actually fit them.
Monty looked up and saw two young men, neatly attired in cargo shorts, flip flops, and colorful long sleeved t-shirts approaching them purposefully. Both were grinning widely.
“Are you guys the Conroy brothers? That’s your dog outside relaxin’ I think. I’m Bobby Seward. This is my brother Tommy. We were rescued too. We’re s’posed to show ya around. We’re gonna get some breakfast too.” They were gone almost as soon as they’d arrived and Monty and Rodger stared after them: there had been no opportunity to answer any of the questions.
They quickly returned with trays laden with all of the best breakfast foods one could imagine. They began eating with relish.
“Yeah,” Rodger offered. “I’m Rodger Conroy and this is my brother, Monty.”
The Sewards continued to enjoy breakfast and had not spoken since they’d returned with their laden breakfast trays.
“What’s your dog’s name,” Tommy Seward inquired around a mouthful of bacon and pancake.
Rodger wanted to scream, but he calmed himself, he then spoke with precision. “Where are we, please?”
“Turbo,” Monty answered Tommy. “We found him on the streets and mom let us keep him. He stayed with us when mom disappeared.” Monty would have liked to continue talking about Turbo; Turbo, after all, was a friend as well as a safe subject in a very strange place. He had pretended not to notice when several other young men with remarkable pointed ears joined them in the breakfast line.
“Well,” Bobby began. “Lookit. Our mom and dad were going crazy and we were catching hell all the time. And then these soldiers came and saved us. Now we’ve a great foster dad; we have friends and everything. I’m sure that’ll happen to you guys too. And your dog will stay with you too.”
“And you’re gonna have to go to school, too,” Tommy added. Then he placated, “But it ain’t so bad.”
“So what happened to you guys,” Bobby really didn’t want to talk about what his parents had been doing to him, his brother and sister.
“Well, our mom disappeared,” Rodger began. “We were on the streets. We were sleepin’ and this cat woke me up. Then there was a fight on the street. Then we got transported to this house, somehow, where a really nice lady fed us and gave us clean clothes. Then the cat came back and took us here. Where ever in the hell ‘here’ is. And I still don’t know how we got here.”
“Well, here is called Earth Prime. We’re in a different universe than Earth. Right next to it but completely different. I don’t really know all about it, but they’ll ‘splain it in school. The cat was probably Simon whose a neat guy and a friend of ours. Whatcha gotta know is that there’s a lotta magic here. Simon’s what they call a ‘familiar’ and he’s magic as hell. That’s how you got here.”
Just then, a long line of men and boys entered the dining hall and started through a different line. They were all wearing a long sleeved white shirt and blue jeans with white trainers.
“Prisoners,” Tommy explained.
“Yeah, and do ya see that Robin perched over there? He’s a familiar and he’s their guard. They won’t try anything.” Bobby observed.
“They use a different line cuz they don’t get all the picks we get. Just eggs and potatoes and bacon and like that for them. They’re prisoners an assholes,” Tommy was not in a forgiving mood.
“Come on, we’re finished, let’s get yer dog and we’ll show ya around,” Bobby pushed his empty tray away.
Outside, Turbo was lying comfortably on the grass until he saw Monty and Rodger, whereupon he jumped up wagging his tail excitedly, but he didn’t come running. He was standing beside a small black and white cat. He was no longer tied.
Look you here, men. Rodger and Monty heard a familiar’s voice for the first time. I’m Simon and I was there when all the four of you were rescued. I’m expecting you to make me proud. You can call me if you need me. If I can’t come, my pal Belvedere will. He’s got the guard duty just now. You saw him inside.
You’re to work hard at school and to ask questions. But you’re also to play and have fun; none of you had much of that on Earth. He seemed to smile somehow.
And he was gone with the usual snap and flash.
Colin and Justin had retreated from Earth Prime, from the palace, from the threat of marriage and all that entailed; at least they had fled in their imaginations, they had fled to their younger days on Earth and were having a very California lunch. They had grilled cheese sandwiches with Tillamook extra sharp cheddar, a large bowl of Fritos, a platter with pickles and four different kinds of olives, and a large bowl of assorted fruit. They were drinking cold milk from tall cut crystal glasses (they could not altogether escape the palace). It was wonderful comfort food. But if their lunch was Californian; their discussion was all about today on Earth Prime.
“So,” Colin smiled at Justin. “They’re going to announce your engagement next week, and then mine a week later. That should release some of the heir pressure (forgive me).” His smile became a positive smirk.
“You’re forgiven, my light. Now look, we’re going to position the space station in a little bit. Who should be on it? How long? What all will they be doing? How do we explain all this to our world? And, by the way, you’re not going.”
“I know,” Colin glowed lovingly at Justin. “Not for a while, anyway. We can both go after we do our duty with the girls. But for now, Bucephalus is the familiar in charge. He’ll be taking the Astronomer Royal and James of Cooper up. They’re going to meet us in an hour so we should probably wait to hear from them. They may have a solution that satisfies all of our needs.”
Justin finished an extra-large green olive stuffed with blue cheese. “Remember, I want the whole world to dream about this. So I want all our folk represented. So far we have an elve and a human; I want a Trollian and a Bwca too.”
“On another subject,” Colin continued. “I’m going to give the commandos regimental status. There’s too much overlapping and confusion as it now is. The other day the Restoration Commando and the Rescue Commando stumbled into each other. Fortunately, the non-coms knew each other so there was just a confusion, but it could have been a mess. Might have blown our cover majorly. Might even have gotten someone hurt.”
“You might as well go ahead and organize the space patrol while you’re at it. You should go ahead and do it so it can take credit for the first trip. You might give them a medal too. It’s risky and it’s adventure and they’re going to be on all the front pages and all over the web.”
Colin leaned forward and gave Justin a thorough kiss. “Mmm. Fritos and you. My best fav,” and he closed for another, longer kiss.
But they only had a few minutes before they went into the conference room to meet with James of Cooper and the Astronomer Royal who were accompanied by Bucephalus in his cardinal form.
“Majesty, Highness,” the Astronomer Royal bowed before each of the boys. “We have much to report.
“The telescope is complete and installed and will be an invaluable research tool resting far above atmospheric interference.
“All of the systems to support and preserve life are in place and have been checked and re-checked.” He paused to give others an opportunity.
“My Dad and Dad-o were here for dinner last night, and Dad told us all about the life support systems and all the tests that have been done. One of our concerns is who should be on the first trip. I know this may seem political, but one of my reasons, all along, has been the dream factor of the operation. Not very scientific, I know, but I want boys and girls to dream about space, and travel in space, and adventures in space. And I want all boys and girls to be able to dream: Trollian boys and girls, and Human, and Elven and Bwca. So there must be at least four people on that station.
“Can you handle that many if we have to do an almost instant exit?” Justin looked at Bucephalus in his scarlet feathers, masked in black, with impudent top knot.
I can easily handle ten if the station itself is damaged and I must make the transit without it. I could handle more if it were an emergency, but I don’t want to have an emergency. So let’s keep it at ten.
“There are only accommodations for ten, anyway,” Jimmy entered the discussion. “May I suggest that eight people and Bucephalus ought to be the first. I’d like to recommend that my orderly be on the mission with me. He’s Bwca but he’s also a neat guy, and if you want people to believe that space is open to all, he’s your man.” He smiled. “You want him because he’ll tell everyone all about it.”
And so it was ultimately decided that the first eight subjects of the King of Ellendale who would go into space would be: Sir Fortescue von Picard, KGSH, OM, the Astronomer Royal and Quartermaster Petty Officer John Tavers, SSM, of His Majesty’s Navy both elves; the Trollians would be represented by Ensign Karl Gustav of the 13th Regiment of Foot, and Lance Corporal Gus Lerner of the “First” Light Infantry both men being transferred from their current Commando assignments; Ensign William Brownlees of the Guards Grenadiers and Ordinary Seaman Rafael Capriotti of His Majesty’s Navy would be present for the Bwca; HRH Sir Michael Alisson, KGCGD, who had designed the station and was the King’s father, and James of Cooper, Magister of the Heavens would be the humans aboard.
It was not accidental that there was a mix of ranks and social class among the first of the Royal Astronauts.
Orders were immediately transmitted to these folk to report for duty to the palace in one week’s time prepared for a new assignment.
Subject: Commando Operations, reorganization of
Notice is hereby given that Commando Operations are going to be consolidated into one regiment, to be known as the 108th Commando Regiment.
Notice is hereby given that the new regiment is to be commanded by Colonel DeLucca, KT, KGD, while the reorganization is in process.
The Earl Martial, commanding in chief.
Subject: Space, exploration of
Pursuant to the orders of His Majesty the King,
Notice is hereby given that a new military branch is in the process of formation. This branch will also explore and conduct scientific research in space.
Notice is hereby given that this branch of the military forces of the King is the Royal Space Corps.
Notice is hereby given that the commander of the Royal Space Corps is Captain James of Cooper, Heavenly Magister, HM Navy.
J 3 R
Done in this the 10th year of our reign
Before the rumor mill of the various commandos could get well and truly rolling, Colonel DeLucca issued an order that operations were to continue as scheduled and that the officers or non-commissioned officers commanding commando units were to report to the Colonel at his villa on the coast in one week. The mission and merit of the commandos was not in doubt.
“I tolt yer! Yes I did. The Space Patrol,” Dusty Jordan chortled at his friend Taffy Owen. They were sitting at a sidewalk café enjoying their morning coffee. Dusty was reading the ‘Metropolitan Examiner’ while Taffy was people watching. “I’m for it, yes I am. I’ll be colonel in a year or two, me.”
“Me too, I guess,” Taffy agreed.
The space station was resting in the wooden cradles and supports upon which it had been built. It looked nothing like a space station, nor for that matter, much of anything else. There were no smooth lines, no suggestion of speed or of flight; the telescope, snugly secured beside the living compartment, looked nothing like a telescope while the long rectangular solar cells, folded neatly together, seemed an awkward afterthought to an already ungainly contrivance.
A small party was gathered on the corner of the parade ground where the construction had taken place. The departure of HMS Insouciant would be quiet. No fanfare, no speeches, and no bands: still, it was a major beginning, a first step toward the stars.
Justin had hugged his Dad and worried at him. Originally, he’d not wanted his Dad to make the trip at all; but his Dad smiled and cocked an eyebrow at him, “I must go if anyone goes.”
Justin had hugged Chipper Tavers. “How is it you get all the best jobs, my friend.” He smiled, “Be careful and take care of everyone.”
Justin continued to hug every member of the crew as he envied them their adventure and wished them well. They entered the station and the air lock hatch sealed behind them.
With the usual snap flash, and it seemed no larger than normal, they were gone.