Per Ardua Ad Astra
Chapter 32: The Beagle
Copyright© 2013 by normist
"And may God keep safe all who sail in her," The First lady said, and turned to me with a smile as she added, "you always seem to surprise me with your ship's names, Admiral."
We turned to descend the steps as the assembled Service people gave the First Lady three rousing cheers. We led the whole naming party over to the Mess while the crew of the Beagle crossed to their craft and boarded it.
Once we all had our drinks to toast the Beagle, the First Lady said, "Why the Beagle, Admiral? It seems to be so inconsequential a name for such a groundbreaking vessel."
"The name Beagle commemorates another explorer who collected alien species. It was the name of the Barque that carried Charles Darwin on his epic voyage and led to his 'Origin of Species'."
"Where do you get such ideas?"
"The books I read as a boy led me to take an interest the sailing navies, mainly British and American. It also led me from there to the hobby of sailing. One of the books that ended up in my library was written by two British Naval Captains during the Second World War. They had been tasked with finding names for all the little ships that were being built. Their book gave the history of all the names that had been used for Navel Vessels, all the different ships that had been called by each name and their various battle honors."
"My. That must be an interesting tale."
"Yes, it is. The book has been updated so that it goes all the way from before the British King, Alfred the Great, and down past World War II to our latest Fleet Aircraft Carrier."
When we had finished our drinks, I led the party outside to give them the grand tour of the Beagle. The party were impressed by the latest addition to our Space Fleet, but the item which caught all their attention was the communication system. Most of them had had no interaction with artificial intelligence apart from those frustratingly idiotic phone answering systems and they could hardly be described by the word 'intelligence'.
For once, Doctor Gentry didn't say anything to upset me. He even suggested that we should invite dignitaries from the Centaurans back to Earth.
Another of his Committee, Peter Davies, asked me, "Do you know the extent of your vocabulary in Centauran, Admiral?"
"I suppose it must run to about two and a half thousand words. Why do you ask?"
"I was just trying to assess your ability to achieve a successful first contact. I think you need a somewhat wider vocabulary, Admiral."
"Don't forget that I shall have Lieutenant Hollis with me to help with translation. Her vocabulary is about four or five thousand words. Do you think that that will sufficient?"
"Yes, that should do fairly well."
"In addition, we'll be electronically connected to the Beagle. There we have another ten thousand words besides the full resources of their dictionaries and encyclopedias."
"But those came from their world of origin. Do you think they are still relevant?"
"Yes, unless there are any concepts which they have forgotten and then redeveloped and renamed."
"Then may I make a suggestion?"
"You should consider adding to your vocabulary, under the influence of hypnosis. I can recommend an expert in the field. It would probably take no more than a week."
"Thank you. Have you got a telephone number for him or her? I'd like to make contact."
"I can do better than that," he looked around the Mess, "Ah, Julian can you come here a moment?"
Professor Hodges joined us, "Julian, the Admiral has desired to avail himself of your services in order to expand his vocabulary of Centauran. Can you help him? It needs to be soon, as he is planning to return there in the near future."