Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa
Crowd noise seeped into the room. Not loud or raucous, just the usual sounds of a large group of people waiting.
The room was small, not much larger than a closet. Just large enough for a table and two chairs. A man and woman occupied the chairs. Both were older, well past middle age. The lady had an air of quiet dignity and grace. With the confidence usually found in those used to being in a position of authority. She was dressed in an unadorned black kimono. She wore no jewelry.
The gentleman With her was wearing a military-style dress uniform. A set of pilot’s wings on his breast and four gold braids on his sleeves. It was apparent that age was weighing heavily on him. It showed in his slumped shoulders, and the bags under eyes that had seen too much. His hands trembled slightly, even though his arms rested on the table.
The lady’s face showed the concern she was feeling. “Alan, do you have to leave? We can make accommodations for you if you need it.” the woman spoke gently with a hint of desperation.
“Agnes, my mind is made up. Ever since Kathy passed on I have just been going through the motions. You have to remember I damn near lost the ship to those pirates last year and you know it. I just don’t have the passion anymore. You need, and the ship deserves a younger Captain.”
“What if we promote you to Commodore and give you a place in the Congress. I really don’t want to lose you Alan. Both your experience and your friendship.”
Tears started to well in Captain Greene’s eyes. “If I didn’t know better, I would think that you were trying to make a pass at me Agnes.”
“Would that be such a bad thing Alan?” She reached out and collected a tear from Captain Greene’s cheek.
“No Agnes, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. But it’s something that cannot be. I would have Kathy’s memory, and you would have the ship. I know with you that it will always be the ‘Seward’s Folly’ first and foremost on your mind. I would just be in the way.”
Pausing for a moment, he continued. “You needn’t worry about me. My eldest son has a comfortable spread at the north Mars pole. He got lucky and found a large pocket of ice. He’s built up his terraforming operations, and his hydroponics have started attracting neighbors. He is even an oxygen producer now and a bigwig in the local politics. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I’ve also talked Clyde Beaver into joining me.”
“Beaver? Isn’t he a cultured meat expert?” Grandmother asked.
“That’s right.” Captain Greene replied, “He is excess to needs on the ship’s roster and has asked for retirement. you granted it last week.”
“Damn you Alan, you are stealing my experts out from under my nose.” there was no sting to her statement. Both of them knew that either of them would give the other anything they asked for.
“No, not your experts. Clyde was due to retire anyway. I am, however, stealing some of your stem cells. I’ve got starter batches of chicken, beef, and pork packed and shipped. Everything, myself included, should arrive at my son’s place at about the same time. Don’t worry. I’ve deposited the payment amounts to the ship’s accounts. So, it’s not stealing, just an unusual business transaction.”
“Alan, you old fool, I was pulling your leg. All you have to do was ask, and anything we have would be yours. when I find those credits, they’ll be going straight back into your account.”
The side door opened, and a smiling young lady poked her head in. “Grandmother, Captain, we’re ready.”
“Thank you, Mary. Well, Alan, the mob awaits us. shall we satisfy their needs?”
As the Captain wearily pushed himself up from the chair, he smiled at Agnes. “Yes, Grandmother, into the dragon’s mouth once again. Together we will weather the storm.”
Agnes gave an uncharacteristic giggle. “Alan, you are a silver-tongued devil.”
As they headed towards the sounds of a large gathering of people. Emily Johnson, dressed in the black Ao-Dai, a symbol of her position on the Mother’s Council. Laid her hand on Grandmother’s arm.
“A word before we join the family Grandmother?”
“What is it Emily, nothing serious I hope?”
“Grandmother, we need to talk about your plan for the next mission. It’s foolhardy and could kill us all.”
“Emily, this is not the time or place for this discussion. We will discuss any future mission agendas at the next Mother’s Council meeting. You will have the opportunity, just like everybody else, to voice your concerns. but standing in a public hallway with absolutely no security. This is not the place for that discussion.”
Grandmother looked down at the hand gripping her arm. Then back up to Emily’s eyes. She stared at Emily for a moment until the younger woman released her grip. Then she and Captain Greene continued walking down the hall. She was quickly joined by two other Council members who escorted her to her place on the stage.
As the older woman entered the room, the sound of several hundred voices quieted. And as one, the people assembled rose and started applauding. As Grandmother approached the podium, the applause continued. Eventually, a combination of sore hands and hunger quieted the crowd down.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Family all. It is with incredible pride that I announce a successful and profitable mission completion. “ throwing her arms wide Grandmother Agnes Seward announced, “Children, Mission Accomplished!”
With that, the room again erupted with applause and cheers. This continued for several minutes. Grandmother not only didn’t try to quiet the crowd, but she also joined in wholeheartedly.
Eventually, the crowd quieted down and Grandmother continued. “Ladies and Gentlemen, before we begin the party, I wish to express my appreciation to the commissary chief for this fine meal. Chef Craig you have done yourself and your team proud.”
A portly man in chef’s white’s standing by the side of the head table bowed deeply. “you honor our efforts, Grandmother.”
Turning back to the audience, she continued. “While this is a celebration of our success, I must, with regret, announce the retirement of Captain Greene. He has accepted the invitation of his son to join him on his ranch on Mars.”
“The Council and I much regret Captain Greene’s departure. But we realize his desire to take advantage of an extremely well-deserved retirement. By unanimous decree, the Council has awarded him the title of Commodore. He will have the privilege of the bridge and a permanent place in the Congress. We hope that we will continue to profit from his wisdom and experience for many more years to come.
As one, the occupants of the room rose and began applauding the grey-haired gentleman seated next to Grandmother.
Agnes turned to Captain Greene and, in a stage, whisper above the noise but below overhearing. “Alan, you may not be on my bridge, but you will always be in our heart.”
When the applause again died down, Grandmother Seward continued. “Children, we take the time tonight to relax and celebrate a successful mission. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be busy preparing for our next trip out. We must make sure that the ship is ready for this coming mission. We, as the family and crew of the Seward’s Folly, are ready for whatever awaits us. Be proud of your work. Do work that you can be proud of. Help your crewmates, our family. If a brother or sister is having trouble, grab up the task and together, you will succeed, and so our ship’s family and home will surely succeed.”
“In the coming days, strangers will be among us. These strangers will be helping us with tasks that we are unable to do ourselves. Watch them, learn from them, learn everything you can so that there will be one less stranger in our future. We will learn from these strangers and soon be able to do what they do.”
“Also watch for problems and dangers. There are so many things in our world that can fail and cause us all injury. If you see some danger or problem, tell somebody to get help and fix the problem. Don’t leave it for the next person. Leaving it for the next person could mean a fellow crewmember or a family member’s injury or death. nobody wants that on their conscience.”
“Always remember that we are our own best defense. We can’t rely on anyone else. We must do it for ourselves. Earth, Luna, and Mars are not our friends. At best, they are buyers of our ore. Always remember that the high bid wins.”
“But beware at all times we have enemies. Those that covet what we have. Want it for themselves. Want the best things for free. We must guard ourselves and our home. There are many traps and tricks out there. Watch yourselves, watch your brothers and sisters. Always remember that blood is thicker than water and family comes first.”
“But there are others out there. The pirate who seek our goods, our air, ourselves as slaves. Some wish to steal cheat and con us for our goods. Be watchful. be careful.”
“OK, that’s enough rambling from the old lady. Tonight, we celebrate. good food, good drink, good friends.” she lifted her glass and held it out to the crowd. “To the Seward’s Folly.”
Her toast was echoed from around the room. Followed by a return of a party’s joyous sounds.