Per Ardua Ad Astra
Chapter 10: Surprise, Surprise

Copyright© 2013 by normist

Charles Groves and I flew to Washington for our meeting at the White House. The time of the meeting was half past nine so we flew in the night before. After Breakfast, we found that a limousine had been sent to our hotel to pick us up.

Arriving at the White House, we were escorted to a large room in one of the basements. There we saw four civilians, a Major, two Generals and an Admiral. The Major was Major Sims, the Marine who had thought he had been sent to secure our base. He made the introductions of the others present. The Civilians were the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and the Air Force.

After a few minutes of polite chit-chat, the door opened to reveal the entrance of the President and an Aide.

"Good morning, Gentlemen. Please take your seats."

Major Sims indicated that I should take the seat to the right of the President, with Major Groves on my right.

"Welcome to our meeting, Doctor Axon. I've called this meeting on the advice of my Cabinet who thinks that our concerns with security can be solved by creating a new branch of the armed services, a Space Service. I told them that I wanted you to have a say in the process. What do you think?"

"I'm flattered," I replied, "But what about Professor Burton? Shouldn't he be here as well?"

"We don't think so. He has indicated to me that his interest was limited to proving his theory about his star drive. You, on the other hand, have shown a practical and competent interest in the application of his drive to the whole gamut of space exploration. So what are your thoughts on the establishment of a Space Service?"

"If it was up to me, I wouldn't make it one of the armed services. That said, it needs to be armed for possible self-defense, rather like the Coastguard Service. There's another point which makes it more like the coastguard or the navy."

"What's that?"

"The whole ethos of a space vessel is more closely related to a sea vessel rather than an aircraft, despite the start and finish of any voyage."

"What makes you say that, Doctor Axon?" asked the Air Force general.

"It's a matter of time frames and scale. No aircraft has flown for more than twenty-four hours. Ships regularly cruise for much longer periods. No aircraft have a crew of fifteen; ships rarely have less."

"Tell me, Doctor Axon," asked the President, "how would you recruit for a space service?"

"I'm no recruitment expert. I'd leave that to others. All I know is that in deep space, if you get a surprise, it's likely to be fatal. That should be taken into account when recruiting.

"What would you do to plan and undertake training?" asked the Admiral.

"As I see it," I replied, "the specialists will learn on the job. The non-specialists will not require much training. They will all have most of their training from their previous employment. For example, cooking in a space ship is not very different from cooking aboard a submarine. That is going to be true for most of the non-specialists. Mariners have also navigated by the stars for centuries. Navigation among the stars is not that much different."

"How about engineering?" asked the Army General.

"Most of that is domestic engineering that you get aboard sea-going vessels. The engineering differences in space-going vessels have already been explored by NASA. I see no problems there."

"But what about your engine room?" he asked.

"We have the trained personnel in the relevant idiosyncrasies of our drive system. Training of additional crew can be undertaken on the job."

There was quiet as the Officers tried to think of other questions.

The President gave me the merest wink before he said, "If there are no other questions, I think we can go on to the subject of who will be the core members of the new Service. Major Groves can I assume that you and your unit will be agreeable to Transfer?"

"Yes, Mister President. I am quite certain that all my crew will want to transfer."

"In that case you will receive promotion to Captain."

"But Sir, that's a demotion."

"Oh I failed to mention, that my Cabinet and I had already agreed with the suggestion that Doctor Axon made this morning that the Space Service should mirror the Coast Guard. You will transfer at the equivalent rank as a Commander and receive immediate promotion to the rank of Captain."

"Thank you, Sir. I am honored."

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