Okay, so you’re not gonna hear me say this too often, but here it is: I screwed up.
You know that old, old song, with the line, “If I could turn back time”? Yeah.
Of all the things I’ve done in my life, all the decisions I’ve made, the only one I regret is when I was announcing the formation of the Terran Federation. I should never have spoken as I did in response to Artemis. I should have taken the high road, and maybe then we would have been spared all the bloodshed that followed.
Unfortunately, I can’t. Well, I can, but Cass tells me I oughtn’t, which is almost the same thing.
In any case, enjoy today’s chapter. As always, if you’re sick of waiting you can click a button here to buy the book, or you can click an image to do the same. Plus there’s the audio at the bottom.
The countdown to the broadcast was simultaneously too fast and dragged out forever, a feeling that Kendra remembered from her days performing but doubted anyone else was familiar with. All the connections to the network feeds were confirmed, both on Earth and in Artemis City. There would be a light-speed lag of about two seconds for both broadcasts, as the Q-Net remained a closely-held secret, which suited Kendra just fine. She was certain that some polities would want to censor their message, if not block it entirely, so they would also be broadcasting a powerful signal from Diana. The various authorities might want to control their content, but they wouldn’t find it quite as simple to do so with two Alpha AI’s working in tandem.
As the hour approached, Kendra’s directorial experience warred with her new role as Admiral: she desperately wanted to check on everyone’s positioning and preparation, but took her cue from Alley. That notable was seated in her command chair, letting her XO deal with minutiae, so Kendra concentrated on emulating her. Finally, though, Stewart made a final check and settled into the left-hand command chair.
Minerva’s cool voice spoke. “Going live in five seconds…four…three…” A blinking light indicated the last seconds, and then the main viewscreen lit, divided into dozens of smaller views. Those showed the various officials, politicians, and leaders who had been granted two-way access during the speech.
“Honored representatives, guests, people of Earth and the Solar System, thank you for joining us on this historic occasion: the official launch of humanity’s first starship.”
“I am Admiral Kendra Cassidy, and the creation of this ship has been the realization of a cherished dream. Although my life has taken me on a most curious journey to this point, I never lost sight of my childhood’s wildest flights of fancy. I never stopped believing in those fond hopes. When I was presented the opportunity to complete the work of so many others, I could hardly stand down from the challenge. Instead, with the support of my wife and my ohana, I embraced it. I stand before you today as a testament to the power of dreams and imagination.”
She gestured to the officers and crew around the bridge.
“Today these fine people will carve a place for themselves in history.” She spent the next few minutes walking around the bridge, introducing them to as much of humanity as they could possibly reach. She ended by standing before the navigation console at the front of the bridge, closest to the viewscreen.
“You may wonder about the name of this ship. She is called Enterprise, and this is a name steeped in history. Various iterations have been merchants, explorers, military vessels, and experimental craft. She has been at the forefront of both the defense of countries and the exploration of space. And yet her name is only peripherally drawn from this deep history.”
“Rather, the Enterprise which inspired her name only exists in a fictional universe, a universe created in a distant past that takes place in a further distant future. She was a ship created with a noble mission: to explore new worlds, to seek out new life, to boldly go where no one had gone before. She was a symbol of the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the age which created her: a quest for equality, a desire for knowledge, and a pursuit of peace and peaceful coexistence. This vision inspired generations, and continues to inspire today.”
“This Enterprise is the living embodiment of that vision. This Enterprise is our assertion that the noblest dreams are neither fleeting nor futile. This Enterprise is our statement to the future that we choose to improve, to embrace change, and welcome the challenges of the present.”
“This vessel is dedicated to furthering those dreams. We will go boldly. We will seek and explore. We will meet all challenges, and we will emerge triumphant.”
“I have the honor to christen this ship the TFS Enterprise.”
“I will now answer questions. Please submit all questions electronically, as I won’t be able to pick out individual voices.”
Minerva put the first question on the screen.
“What does TFS mean? TFS is the abbreviation for Terran Federation Ship.”
“Who is the Terran Federation? Right now, the Terran Federation is mostly an idea and an ideal, a commitment to the vision I stated a moment ago. I hope that, in the fullness of time, the Terran Federation will grow to be an institution that will guide the future of our race.”
“What fictional universe is this from? The Star Trek universe. It’s pretty easy to find on the Net.”
“Who’s behind the Terran Federation? My wife and I are.”
“What’s your first mission? Over the next several months, we’re going to be taking the Enterprise on longer and longer cruises, as we shake down to full operational status. If all goes well, by this time next year we’ll be ready to begin some real exploration missions.”
“What country is backing this Federation? No country is backing it. I told you, my wife and I are behind it. We are dedicating our lives, our fortune, and our sacred honor to making a lasting difference in the history of our homeworld.”
“You claim to embrace the vision of peace, yet according to our information your ship is fitted with the most powerful weapon in the system. Why? I said that we will not back down from any challenge to achieving our dreams. However, we’re realists. We know that there are going to be people, organizations, even countries, which will not support this dream. We know that there may be active opposition to our vision, and some may even go so far as to resort to violence. It would be the height of foolishness to risk the hopes of so many without taking adequate precautions.”
“How fast can you go? Well, we don’t know exactly yet. Theoretically, we ought to be able to travel to Proxima Centauri and return in less than a day.”
“What do you get out of this? Besides living a dream and bringing humanity into a brighter future? Well, there’s the really cool uniform.” She gestured to herself with a smile. “But it’s mostly living the dream. We may make money on this, but that’s not our motivation. If we spend every credit we have but succeed in getting mankind out to the stars, it will be worth it. I think we have time for one more question.”
“We will destroy you and your blatant attempt to assert colonial dominion over… Blah, blah. Okay, I can guess that comes from the Solarian Union. Hi, guys! Look, I told you what our mission is. We have no desire to engage in armed conflict with anyone.” Her smile changed into something that resembled a smile only to someone not paying attention. Anyone else would see the menace behind it. “But, and I want to make this absolutely clear to everyone, any attempt to destroy Terran Federation property, injure our personnel, or disrupt the peaceful execution of our mission, will be met with equal force, equal intensity, and equal effect. You leave us alone, and we will leave you alone. But if you come after us, you will live just long enough to regret that decision for the remainder of your very short life.”
“Thank you for your time. Cassidy, out.” Minerva cut off the transmission, and Kendra turned to face the bridge.
“I think that went well. Don’t you?”