Outward Bound
Chapter 5

Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa

Three days after my meeting with Agnes Seward, I took their shuttle over. I shared the ride with two very hungover contractors and a load of supplies for one of the many departments onboard a mining ship.

When I arrived, I met a young lady who told me her name was Mary and she was Grandmother Seward’s secretary. I resolved that I would have to remember the Grandmother title.

Mary led me to Grandmother Seward’s office. When I entered, Agnes stood and held her hand out. “Captain Sullivan, I’m glad you made it. From what I understand, your wife will be coming aboard later with your belongings.”

As she was speaking, Mary had brought in a coffee service and, without asking, started pouring a cup of coffee for me and tea for Agnes.

I sipped my coffee and was pleasantly surprised. This was real coffee, not the imitation stuff you would get on the station and all of the officer’s wardrooms I had been in.

Agnes noted my pleasure. “Another perk of the job Henry. we have a large section of coffee plants. We’re growing chocolate too.”

“Well, April will be glad to hear that. So, Grandmother, what’s the plan for today.”

“Captain today, I will be introducing you to the ship’s command. Both the Mother’s Council and the ship’s Congress. The Council might be troublesome. But Congress shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Ma’am, I stood before an Admiral’s board after the Windemere incident. The entire board was out for blood, and Colonel Montgomery was missing. Because I was senior and commanded the escape flight, I was chosen as the sacrificial goat. I am used to hostile questioning. Proof of that is my avoiding the gallows. And to tell you the truth, my comrades also avoided punishments. Some of them are still in the fleet. And they quietly remain my friends. Which is fine, I know who they are, and the FN can’t hurt me anymore.”

“Still, Captain forewarned is forearmed. I support you. You are the Captain and will remain so until I say different.”

“Thank you, Ma’am. That vote of confidence goes a long way.”

“Good, and it’s Agnes, not Ma’am. At least in private.”

“Thank you, Agnes, it’s an honor, but you have to call me Henry.”

“Alright, Henry, the wolves have gathered. Let us go forth and do battle.”

“Lay on MacDuff, and damn’d be him that first cries ‘hold enough!”

It seemed that Agnes would start laughing. Smiling, she said, “And well-read too now I know I made the right choice.”

When we entered the council chamber, I was amazed to see that the u-shaped table and the chairs that dominated the room were made of wood. Wood was much too expensive to use as furniture. Even the desk in Admiral Washburn’s office was metal and plastic. There were nine large, comfortable-looking chairs around that table. The fanciest chair at the center. Around the room along the walls were other chairs not nearly as elegant, fancy, or well padded.

The room had been a quiet babble of women’s voices. Some were laughing, and the atmosphere was light and welcoming. But I had been in too many disciplinary meetings to accept this at face value. I hoped that things would go smoothly, but Agnes seemed to feel that there might be problems.

As we walked in, Agnes directed me to the podium at the open end of the table. Agnes then circled the room, speaking to several of the ladies. I didn’t have a chair.

There were nine others in the room. All of them were dressed in various colored ao-dai’s. Most of them were middle-aged, but two were either younger or took very good care of themselves. Behind each of the 9 was another lady or two. These ladies were dressed in a variety of clothing. Ao-dai’s and the kimono that Agnes wore seemed to be reserved for them only. When Agnes got to her seat, she stopped and looked around the room.

When Agnes got to her chair, the room quieted down. The nine ladies in ao-dais stood in front of their chairs. Everybody paused for a moment and then in unison sat down.

Agnes spoke up. Her voice carried through the room easily. “Ladies, I’ve called you here to introduce you to our new Captain. He was recommended to us by Alan Greene. Who, by the way, has arrived at his son’s ranch and moved in with no problems. Something all of you will be glad to hear.”

“Captain Sullivan has served with the FN navy with distinction. And I am sure that he will serve the Seward’s Folly with the same dedication. If you have any questions for Captain Sullivan, now is the time to ask them.”

I have stood many promotion boards over the years and was nervous for all of them. But nothing like this. I was actually trembling, and the sweat was running down my back. A minute or two passed, and nothing was said. With the way those ladies were staring at me, I felt that I was an ice cream sundae in front of a starving kid.

I decided I had to try to break the ice. “Ladies, it’s a pleasure to meet you all. I am sure that soon we will meet individually. If you have any general questions at this time, I’ll be happy to try and answer them.”

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