Per Ardua Ad Astra
Chapter 30: The Prime Directive
Copyright© 2013 by normist
"But how can you know?" spluttered Doctor Gentry.
"We went to school," I replied. "Here on earth, in the smaller communities, schools can only afford one teacher in a one-roomed school. The same is true on Alpha Centauri. We spent a week in a school with classes of all ages less than adult. Don't you think, that with the smart crew we have, that we could learn their alphabet and how it sounds? Once we had that and a few words as well, we could make progress with the encyclopedias and the dictionaries."
"What we have to decide, Doctor," said the President is whether to inform the public of the existence of the Centaurans and whether to inform the Centaurans of our existence."
"Of course we must. I can't wait to inform my colleagues of these exciting discoveries."
"May I point out, Doctor," said the President, "that you agreed to keep the proceedings of this meeting confidential until we decided to publish them."
"But this is too important not to..."
"Doctor, be quiet. Now Admiral, you appear to disapprove of contacting the Centaurans. Can you tell us, please, why you are of that opinion?"
"Yes, Sir. It has always been my idea that knowing that another race is more advanced than yourselves is a recipe for disaster."
"Why is that?"
"If another race has 'been there, done that', why should we 'bother'. It could lead to cultural collapse, or at least, a racial inferiority complex."
"I think that the human race is more resilient than that, Admiral. You show too poor an opinion of us. Don't you think?"
"Perhaps, It could be that I just didn't want to put it to the test."
"That's a valid point of view, Admiral, but I feel that the time has come to test the opinion of the meeting. May I have a show of hands, firstly, on whether to inform the people on Earth that you have discovered another sentient race."
The vote on this question went fourteen for, four against, with two abstentions. The abstentions were the President's and mine.
"Now," continued the President, "we come to the question of whether we inform the Centaurans of our existence."
This time, the vote was nine for, seven against and two abstentions.
"I must remind you," the President continued "that these votes are not decisive. That can only be determined by the Cabinet. However, these votes do give me some idea how their decisions may go. Thank you."
With that, the meeting broke up to proceed to a prearranged lunch. The President indicated that I should wait behind. When everybody else had left the room, he asked.
"Well, Admiral, if the Cabinet decides to contact these Centaurans, are you prepared to carry out their wishes?"
"Yes, Sir. I'm actually in two minds about such a contact, seeing that they have also been contacted by another race, but I felt that I had to raise the point."
"If we get the go ahead, how would you proceed?"
"I think that I would need the Endeavour but wouldn't use it to land on their planet. I would probably take Chief Petty Officer Hollis with me, as her language skills would be useful."
"I think you're right. We'll have to wait and see what the Cabinet decides. I know where my money lies. Now let's go and get some lunch."
After lunch, Bob Mather took us back to our hotel to book out and then to Andrews Field to return to our Base in the Enterprise.
The next morning at our planning meeting, I suggested that we should assume that we would be contacting the Centaurans and to plan for that event. One suggestion from Lieutenant Benson was that he should bug our uniform caps. That would enable the people aboard the Endeavour to monitor us while we were on the ground, by seeing and hearing what we would. I gave him the go ahead and we passed on to discussing how much we should tell them about Earth and its peoples.
Much to our surprise, the Cabinet had not only decided that we should make first contact with the Centaurans, but that another Voyager class craft should be built as well. That would mean more work for Bob Mather recruiting for another crew. Of course, we would be splitting the crew of the Voyager across both vessels with all the promotions that such a split implied.
The State Department had wanted to make me a fully functioning Ambassador with all the trimmings. In turn, I had said that this first visit should be just to say 'Hi, nice to meet you', and to play it by ear from there. Reluctantly, the White House agreed.