Sunday serialisation – Andrea 15.2

Andrea cover300

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.

 

 

Andrea – in search of space. Chapter fifteen, part two.

The hours turned into days. Fully four and a half days passed before anything was heard from the Jinthae. During that time, they were closeted in the engineering section of the Sir Prijs, consulting and cross-matching the output from their instruments with that from the cruiser’s own databanks. The job only needed two of them working together, so each of them transferred back to Grintsk for some hours to replenish their nutrients, working the equivalent of double-shifts – sixteen hours on and eight hours off.

As they had requested, the crew left them completely to their own devices and went about their normal duties whilst the Jinthae did their job. The permanent crew of the Sir Prijs enjoyed some well-earned R&R using the larger ship’s sporting and leisure facilities.

In the science section, J’Lana and Gloriana spent the time analysing and documenting the flora they had found. Before subjecting it to detailed analysis, they separated out leaves that had been partly chewed. These they handed to Joop so he could analyse any animal DNA found on them. From their own analyses it was clear that the leaves they had brought back were, at the cellular level, even down to the DNA, identical to the terrestrial plants they resembled. Added to Joop’s analysis of the saliva left on the leaves, which pointed to the Masai Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) and African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana), this gave good indication that what they had found was very much a parallel Earth – in that area at least.

The Jinthae were finally in a position to present the results of their deliberations. They, the scientists and other senior staff met in the conference room. The three specialist engineers were there, but Kitara Navilli’s place had been taken by Jinnis Keet, the Jinthae’s chief ambassador and the one most familiar with Earth and its human inhabitants.

“We have an interesting, if confusing and somewhat troubling situation here,” Jinnis Keet started, “We can confirm that the planet you visited is, by all discernible measures, an exact analogue of your planet, albeit about fifteen percent larger. It is also denser than your home planet, hence the slightly higher gravity.

“The path you took shows no deviation from established norms and all the instrumentation confirms that you re-entered the same dimension you left. Measurement of time in gap as well as comparison of star-chart positions confirm that the planet you visited is in a star-system 2473 light-years from your home system. Of that, there is no question. How then, can it be that the planet you landed on is so similar to your own, even in its apparent parallel coordinates? Again, we must accept that we are looking only at a very small portion of the planet. Frankly, our science has no answers to this. Following discussions on Grintsk, I am authorised to tell you that what you have experienced is a new phenomenon to us. Our preliminary, somewhat tentative conclusion is that we are looking at a parallel evolution in all but one respect. Humankind, your dominant species, appears not to have emerged there. And I think that’s where we need to leave it, pending further investigations.

“We can join in your investigations, or we can leave it with you. Our methodology you know – the first job is usually to send atmospheric probes via MTS and self-extract in the target planet’s atmosphere to sample the atmospheric composition and send results back. That we don’t need to do as you’ve already adequately studied the atmosphere local to your landing site. We then insert SEP-protected devices in stationary orbits around the planet to collect data. The downside to all this is that it is a long-term project that would be expected to take two- to three-hundred of your years. Our understanding from Meredith is that you may not have that much time available. My conclusion, which I propose to recommend to the Institute, is that you continue the investigation yourselves. Of course, you may call on us at any time for any assistance you feel you may need. Otherwise we’ll keep out of your way.”

“That sounds eminently suitable,” Andrea said, “although I have no idea where we’d start. Looking around this room, though, I can see a number of people who will have a good idea exactly how they wish to proceed. We are grateful to you for your help, Jinnis Keet. As you know, you and your teams are welcome aboard this vessel any time you wish.” Jinnis dipped his head, and he and the other Jinthae winked out of existence.

Andrea raised herself to her full height and addressed the room. “I think it’s clear that we need to go back and carry out extensive surveys on the whole of this planet. As you all know, allocation of ship’s resources, including personnel, is the First Officer’s responsibility. I would therefore like department heads to let Captain Stuart-Lane have suggestions for composition of teams and allocation of existing equipment to address this challenge as soon as possible. Any requests for additional or novel equipment should be routed through Commander Tanimoto. Thank you all.”

Ishmael added, “When the Rear Admiral said as soon as possible, she meant by end-of-day tomorrow. Correct, Ma’am?”

“Definitely, Commodore. Captain Stuart-Lane – you’re with me. Otherwise, dismissed.” Andrea left the room, followed by Ishmael and Tarquin

“I don’t know anything about allocating ship’s resources and personnel,” Tarquin whined, “What am I supposed to do?”

“What you will do, Captain,” Ishmael said firmly, “is this. You will learn from me. When you have all the suggestions and requests, call me. I will go through them with you to make sure you not only do it correctly, but you will also know how to do it in the future.”

“I’d like to be in on this, too,” Andrea said, “The usual route to my position is via First Officer then Captain. I’ve done neither. As I see it, the more I understand my senior officers’ jobs, the better I’ll be able to lead. Agreed, Commodore?”

“Absolutely. I’d be more than happy for you to shadow my job, too, on the rare occasions that time permits.”

“Excellent idea, Ishmael. I’d also like Tarquin to shadow you from time to time. No point in being first officer if it doesn’t fit him to be captain of his own ship later on.”

“Oh, I say,” Tarquin exclaimed, “Am I going to learn how to drive this great big thing?”

“Settle down, Captain. I will agree to you shadowing me to learn how to command a vessel but that’s as far as it goes. Think about this. How often have you seen me at the controls of C-pill?”

“Umm. You know what? Thinking about it, I don’t think I have.”

“No, you haven’t, and that’s because the captain of a space vessel commands, he doesn’t actually fly it. The main pilot is the senior helm officer. I recall one of my instructors at the officer training school telling me that the captain of a space-faring vessel is like a senior manager in industry: things happen because they are there that wouldn’t happen if they weren’t there. A manager who works, he told me, is not a manager. A manager who works is a worker. And so it is with the captain of a space vessel. If the captain pilots the vessel, they become a pilot or helm officer, not a captain. Kapeesh?”

“I think so.”

“Good.”

“So I won’t learn how to drive C-pill, then?”

“No, Tarquin, you will not. Not, that is, unless you want to train for the position of helm officer which, incidentally, carries the maximum – listen to that word carefully – maximum rank of Lieutenant-Commander.”

“Gosh.”

“Exactly. Gosh.”

“Are we now agreed on where we’re going?”

“Yes, Ma’am. Captain Stuart-Lane will learn what you need him to learn.”

“And no more?”

“And no more, Ma’am.”

“Suits me. Thank you gentlemen. Dismissed.”

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