Andrea – in search of space, picks up where Making Merry left off.
Fresh from her work on Project Prodigialis, Rear Admiral Andrea Smithson takes command of the Terra II project.
The largest in-system luxury cruise liner had been refitted and recommissioned in the Royal Space Regiment fleet as HMDSV Colin Pillinger. Its mission? To identify, locate and survey a habitable but uninhabited planet which can be populated over time to take pressure off Earth and its resources.
For the cast of characters at the start of the project, click here
For a brief list of acronyms and initialisms used, click here
Andrea – in search of space. Chapter eight, part two.
After the funeral, Ivy de Sauderley approached Lieutenant Nambeesan.
“Miss Nambeesan—” she started.
“Nusha, please. If anyone calls me Miss Nambeesan, I think I’m in trouble.”
“I can relate to that,” Ivy said with a grin, “Nusha. I would rather like to go back to Earth straight away, if I can. I have business to attend to in a couple of days that needs me to be there.”
She followed Anusha to a monitor, where the officer checked the rosters. “Actually, if you can hold off until tomorrow, you could do me a service. Two of the older kids are going down tomorrow to start university—”
“York, both of them.”
“That’s just down the road from me.”
“Even better. I noticed you lived in York and hoped you’d be able to go with them all the way.”
“Where will they be living?”
“I’ll get the final details from Packway this evening. The Regiment is organising something.”
“Perhaps they needn’t bother. I have a large house off Field Lane. I only occupy half of the building, the rest I converted some time ago into two self-contained two-bed flats – much larger than the usual run of student accommodation. The reason I need to go down soon is that they are both currently vacant and I’m starting negotiations with a letting agency. Could they help? I’m literally fifteen minutes’ walk from the main university buildings.”
“One of those between them could be very helpful, Ivy. Let me put that to them and to Packway. How much rent would you be looking for, by the way?”
“What does the regiment normally pay?”
Nusha tapped a few keys. “Eight hundred per month is their ceiling.”
“I’d like to meet both of the youngsters, obviously, but I think that for eight hundred a month they could have one each. Obviously, I could get a lot more on the open market, but I wouldn’t have as much control over who rents them and, this way, I wouldn’t need to pay agency fees. Also, if it’s backed by the regiment, I don’t think I’d need to ask for a security deposit or other guarantees. And I think I’d be doing something to honour Duncan’s memory, too.”
“Why don’t I fix up a dinner for you this evening and invite the two of them and their parents. Just so you know, Janice is the daughter of Head of Security, Shannon Crawford and her husband Ben, who works with Gloriana Tunnelly in Life Sciences; and Jonathan, Jonno to his friends, is the son of Dr Turner and his first wife Paige Boyle. The current Mrs Turner is Eileen, ship’s dentist. Leave it with me to check with them and with Packway, and get back to you.”
As Ivy walked away to talk with some of the people who had eulogised her late brother, the Strange-Names approached Nusha.
“Sorry to bother you, Lieutenant…” George said.
“No bother; it’s what I’m here for. What can I do to help you both?”
“I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation with Ivy just now. I wanted to let you know that we’d like to stay on board for a few days, if we could. I’d really like to spend some time with Admiral Smithson – I think she and our Jason were quite close – and hear from her what he was like on board; what sort of job he did, how he got on with people, and maybe something about his last job before coming here. Wasn’t he, at one time, captain of the ship we came up in?”
“Yes, he was, and Mr Postlethwaite, whom you met, was his First Officer for a while, too.”
“Oh, poor Jacob. That boy really shouldn’t have a job with responsibility. He strikes me as being as much use as a chocolate fire-guard.”
“I’m sure I couldn’t comment on that, Mr Strange-Name, but I can set up informal sessions with a number of the senior officers who worked with your son.”
And so, Anusha Nambeesan did what Anusha Nambeesan does best: she set up a dinner for Ivy de Sauderley with the Crawfords, and the Turners and Paige Boyle, which resulted in confirmation that Janice and Jonno could use Ivy’s flats as their student accommodation for the entirety of their time at York; and she set up meetings for the Strange-Names with Andrea, Ishmael, Dr Turner and Algernon Pippington. She even managed to get Meredith, Joan and Patsy to sit down with George and Amanda for a chat over an informal lunch.
During an afternoon meeting with the Strange-Names, Andrea asked them whether they had found the trip useful.
“I’d have to say mostly,” Amanda Strange-Name replied, “I found most people very kind and happy to talk about our Jason – as you have been yourself, I have to say – but I was confused by what one of your officers told me.”
“Can you remember which one?”
“Ooh, let me think. Can you remember the young man’s name, George?”
“Not really,” George said, “Captain something or other. Bit of a posh git, if you ask me.”
“Stuart-Lane?” Andrea suggested.
“Yes, that’d be him. Properly confused me he did. Said Jason was a good egg, whatever that means but went on about how he and Jason had been rivals on the moon for the affections of some woman who used to be a man or some such.”
“Not used to be a man, Darling, a woman pretending to be a man, who then stopped pretending and showed herself to be a beautiful woman,” her husband corrected her, “That was what he said.”
“Did he put a name to this person?”
“Alice?” Andrea asked.
“Yes, Your Admirableship. Like Alice and Alec. You know. When you’re sad about something.”
“I think my wife means ‘alas and alack’, Admiral, but no, he didn’t. I did ask him but he said it wouldn’t be proper. Wasn’t his place, he said.”
“Shall I just say, Amanda, George, that Captain Stuart-Lane sometimes has a very fertile imagination, and just occasionally, what he says doesn’t necessarily enjoy a particularly close relationship with reality.”
“I wondered if he was on something,” George said, “you know, drugs or something.”
“Ha ha ha. Tarquin doesn’t need drugs. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to what he says, though. I’ll have a chat with him after you’ve gone. But I do rather like the concept of Alice and Alec.”
The following day, Ivy, Janice and Jonno stepped into the pad bay on board and stepped out in Packway. Five hours later, Ivy was showing the two teens around what would be their home for the next few years. Three days later, George and Amanda boarded the Sir Prijs along with Meredith, Joan and Patsy to take the slow route back to Earth. This was essential for Amanda, as she was totally unable to handle even the idea of being converted to energy and flung a quarter of a billion kilometres through space. Of the others, Meredith and Joan wanted to experience sub-light flight at least once, and Patsy, bless her, just wanted to be with Meredith and Joan, and to join as a founder-member the million-miles high club in the vessel that held so many memories for all three of the officers.