Aloha – So how to you acclimatize to a new off-world culture. That is what Ryder and his friends have to deal with in Chapter 8. We get a glimpse of Ryder’s talents in this chapter and more insights into his crazy sister Debbie. (Again, earlier chapters are posted in the blog, future chapters will come out every week.)
Around the building there was a lot of activity. Dozens of people moving back and forth, and small groups of others clustered in circles talking. There was one group of five young men playing a game similar to hacky sack. They looked like normal teenagers wasting some time, but they had a greenish-brown skin color that Ryder had never seen before. He tried not to stare. As Ryder, Cynthia, Debbie, and Becky were passing, one of the group half looked at them and sneered. “Earthling grubs.” It was obviously intended as an insult. Ryder wasn’t sure why it irritated him so much. He replied, “Well, Earth grubs eat green grass,” and regretted it as soon as he said it.
It was clearly the wrong thing to say. All five of the young men turned and stared with malice in their eyes. As the young men glared, Ryder noticed their irises were mostly orange with yellow speckles that created a disconcerting combination. Trying to look away, he looked down, and noticed they were wearing boots with pointed toes. He started sweating as he suddenly flashed back to Barry Hales.
“Ryder, hurry up. We need you inside,” he heard Miss Li call. Mr. Small walked toward them, intercepted the five young men, and had a whispered conference. The group turned as one and walked off in the opposite direction. But Ryder saw the leader of the group turn his head with a look of clear contempt on his face. He figured this wouldn’t be the last he’d see of the hacky sack players. Great, he thought, a hundred light years from Earth, and I still can’t get away from bullies.
As Mr. Small rejoined them Ryder asked, “Are those the Sagittarians?”
Mr. Small grinned. “No, those are just some hotshot Cryellians up to mischief. The Sagittarians are much more intimidating.” He hesitated, then continued. “They really aren’t that different than we are. Six thousand years of evolution isn’t much. Our DNA still matches up tightly with the Sagittarians, and the Per-Sian’s for that matter. It’s more their manner. Their posture is ramrod straight. They emit a sense of command by their very presence.”
“So they’re giants?” Debbie suggested.
“Not really. Let’s see, the most pronounced feature is a hawklike nose. Their hair is uniformly dark. Most have high pronounced cheekbones. I’d say that is the most common look of the officer corps, but they are really as varied as people on Earth. But their demeanor sets them apart. Not always to the better.”
Inside the facility, Ryder was in awe at the size of the complex that was built right into a bluff, with an atrium that showed eight floors of glass, angling out, revealing a panoramic view of the water and islands below. Apparently the back of the top floor was all that showed from the tarmac. This was the reception area, with a number of small lounges. Miss Li was talking to someone at a desk. The desk looked like it was made out of a huge luminous diamond, but Ryder guessed it was some sort of solid quartz stone.
As Ryder and his friends loitered around the common area, he could see from various angles that six of the floors were lined with long corridors framing rows of doors, all facing toward the water. The hallways looked to be about twelve feet wide, giving the appearance of very long decks that ran a hundred yards in either direction. The walls were of a black onyx stone, while the floors were made of the same self-illuminating rock they had seen in the tunnels entering Demeter. Apparently polishing the rock increased the intensity of the luminosity. Staring at the floor was like staring at a flashlight.
The bottom two floors were public areas. The second floor went about halfway toward the front of the atrium, which at that level was almost fifty yards deep. It was some sort of food court. Just seeing the tables, even at that distance, made Ryder hungry. The bottom floor was crisscrossed with walkways. On both ends it looked like tennis courts, although the far ends in either direction were hard to make out. The rest of the area was divided into eight pools with cabanas scattered throughout. He could hear the echoing laughter of people below, which was reflective of indoor pools. Outside, on the bottom level, Ryder could see a huge meadow and rows of well-tended hedges.
Miss Li gathered everyone. “Okay, we have two suites. Mr. Small will take Randy, Joel, and Ryder to room 317. I will take the girls to room 319.”
“Is this where we’re going to live?” Athena asked. Clearly Athena was feeling less hostile after viewing the accommodations.
“Heaven’s no,” Miss Li responded. “We’ll be here a couple of days before we move on to Europe. This is Arion, the port of entry. We’ll do some testing, work out schedules and assignments for your stay here, and give you a chance to get familiar with some of the culture, geography, and most importantly, help your bodies get used to the lower gravity. You’ve all taken a few tumbles. It helped to carry your luggage, but you’ll find that it takes a couple of days just to understand the way your bodies will respond to the environment. We also run a few medical tests, and no, we are not going to dissect you, but some people simply can’t adjust to the physical differences. We’d rather figure that out here than when you’re halfway up a mountain on a field trip and suddenly pass out or something.”
“Does that really happen? Do people die? How did they get them down? Are we going to be all right? I know I’ll be all right,” stumbled out of Debbie’s mouth as fast as she could talk. She almost sounded like a chipmunk to Ryder, but a glance from Cynthia stopped him from saying so.
“It’s actually very rare,” Miss Li said. “In the last twenty years, we’ve only had four people actually have to be medically treated and returned to Earth. There was a death from a fall when a friend of mine first got here, but that was over thirty years ago.” She quickly changed the subject. “Let’s have lunch. Then we’ll get ready for the first test.”
“A test? Already? We just got here!” Joel complained.
“The test is in two hours, nonetheless,” Miss Li interjected. “The test will be in pool seven.” She pointed below to the swimming pools.
Several people grinned delightedly, but Ryder commented, “I didn’t bring swimming trunks.”
Mr. Small had returned to the group and stated, “We have new swimwear for everyone. It’s in your suite.”
Ryder frowned. “Sounds like PE,” he muttered under his breath.
Room 317 had a narrow but large common room. A step up led to a kitchen/bar area. Off the kitchen was a hallway leading straight back into the bluff. It was cut right into the stone, as the finish was polished rock, which seemed to have some sort of gemstone or other about every twenty square feet.
Mr. Small had claimed the first room to the left down the hallway, and now Randy and Joel were wrestling over who got the first room on the right. Ryder stepped around them and took the second private quarters to the left. He figured it would be quieter in there anyway. The chamber was large, but not palatial. It had a king-sized bed butted against the back wall and centered. In addition, the accommodations included a closet, dresser, and mirror on the far side near the door. In front of the bed was a desk of that same quartz material that was present at the front counter in the lobby. A private bath was off the near side of the apartment. He observed that the bathroom facilities worked on sensors, anticipating his needs. Rather than towels, there was a hand dryer with enough pressure that his hands were actually pushed away when he first went to use it. Once he got over the surprise, he loved it. In less than five seconds his hands were totally dry. He looked at the body-sized unit next to the shower and was tempted to try it out, but then heard his name being called and realized he was supposed to be on his way to lunch.
Three eating facilities graced the second floor. At the far end was a private restaurant with linen tablecloths. Ryder could see wait staff serving a few patrons. The center section reminded him of a mall food court, but the area was totally self-serve. He spotted someone with what looked like a burger and fries, and a table of people sharing a pizza.
Miss Li organized the group at the third eating facility opposite the private restaurant. This area reminded Ryder of a school cafeteria. He wasn’t very excited. He remembered the time he had tried the canned spinach at school lunch; his stomach spasmed remembering the embarrassing experience. He hadn’t eaten school lunch since. He relaxed a little when he saw a menu screen come up that looked very much like the screen on the Pegasus. He was a bit disappointed that the options excluded some of his favorite foods, such as pizza, burgers, and fries. He ordered the fettuccini, hard roll, and salad, which he was certain would please Miss Li.
“Why can’t we eat in the food court?” Joel complained behind him.
Mr. Small responded quietly at the back of the line, but loud enough that Ryder could hear him. “Miss Li wants to make sure you get two nutritional meals each day. Don’t worry, the food court is open twenty-six hours a day. You can have lunch there in the future, and we’ll be sure to make a midnight raid after Yara retires for the evening.”
Mr. Small looked innocently at Miss Li and shrugged a nonverbal “What?” Ryder didn’t think Mr. Small looked very innocent at all.
“I may not have heard you, but I’ve worked with you long enough to know exactly what you told Joel. No midnight runs this year.” Then Miss Li smiled. “Just make sure you and your wards are back in their room by 2330. I expect to see you no later than 2335.” She wiggled her ring finger at Mr. Small and finished, “Roger.”
All four of the girls with Miss Li giggled.
The table was quiet for several minutes as everyone focused on eating. Halfway through his salad that looked like an odd assembly of weeds, Ryder turned to Mr. Small. “I’m a bit confused.”
“Why is that?” Mr. Small turned his head, as he had been staring toward the food court longingly.
“We’re halfway across the galaxy…”
“Actually we’re only a little over a hundred light years from Earth, hardly halfway across the galaxy,” Mr. Small interrupted.
“Okay, we’re a long way from Earth. Why is it that the food looks so familiar? I would think it would be a lot more,” Ryder paused, “exotic.”
Mr. Small laughed. “If you want exotic I’ll take you to a Cryellian café in Europe. We would consider them vegetarians. They think our food is barbaric. They eat this stuff that reminds me of tofu, but it has no flavor. They would argue about that, but I’ve never been able to distinguish much flavor in any foods they eat. It certainly does have color though…purple, blue-gray, and a very bright pink. Anyway, remember that Demeter has no natural habitat. There are no native plants or animals. Every living organism from microbes to bovine, grass to dewsnips, is imported from somewhere. So we have imported a lot of things from Earth.” He leaned in and whispered, “We could have left these wild lettuces back on Earth as far as I’m concerned.” Then returning to a normal voice, he said, “Let’s see, there are cattle, sheep, and chickens here. No turkeys. They couldn’t seem to adapt to the lower gravity for some reason. There were challenges importing fish.”
“What fish don’t handle the lower gravity?” Ryder drew in closer.
“It’s the minerals. The Sea of Demeter is not a saltwater ocean, but it has a lot of minerals in it. It took a long time to develop species that could live in this sea. We do have a freshwater crab that can certainly compete with any burger.” He looked at his salad with a hint of disgust, then refocused. “There are a few fish varieties we’ve been able to adapt to the sea. Some are pretty ugly. We have orchards in the highlands with apples, peaches, nashis, plums, and more. Along the coastlines we have all sorts of citrus fruits. Some of the dwarf Cryellian varieties are better than oranges or mikans. The only thing I know of that is imported from the Sagittarius Arm is dewsnips. I’m surprised we don’t have any here today. Now that, as my older sister would say, is to die for. Great stuff.” He picked up his fork with resolve and poked at his salad again.
“Dewsnips?” Ryder perked up.
“What is it?” Cynthia leaned into him and asked.
“Something odd. I’ve heard of dewsnips before,” Ryder whispered back.
“It is interesting that whenever mankind has moved out to new territories the first thing they want to do is bring their own food with them. There is a certain comfort to familiar flavors and textures in eating. So, if you want a hamburger, or a taco, or great French fries, we have them here.” Then in a lower voice, Mr. Small finished. “And of course we have this stuff too.”
Although Ryder was not a great swimmer, he did enjoy the afternoon they spent in the pool. Miss Li had everyone swim laps. Ryder was surprised to discover that he could swim three times as many laps as he could at school back on Earth, and he still didn’t feel tired, although his arms and legs did start to ache.
After working everyone out for almost an hour, Miss Li informed them that they would stay poolside until evening. “It’s time to unwind and enjoy not being cooped up in the Pegasus for a while.” She and Mr. Small wandered off to a cabana at the far side of pool seven. Randy, Joel, and Athena soon got into a water fight. Ryder considered joining them, but instead offered to get a drink for Cynthia.
“I’ll have a Cherry 7UP.” Cynthia smiled. She looked great in a white, one-piece swimsuit that set off her dark hair and complexion.
“I’ll have one too,” Debbie volunteered, then added, “Becky will have a juice.”
Ryder enjoyed the afternoon as much as any he could remember. He found out that Cynthia and her family had immigrated to the U.S. when she was a baby. Her father had earned his citizenship just two years earlier. Her father was a trained engineer, but had received a teaching certificate and taught mathematics at Burnham High School. Her mother didn’t work. “If you can call staying at home and raising six children not working,” Cynthia said with a laugh.
Rebecca had an older brother and a younger sister. Her brother had left home at sixteen, and Ryder noticed pain in her eyes when she said it. She stayed in contact with her brother but hadn’t seen him in over a year. Her family had moved twice in the last five years. She loved Jane Austin, and was a big fan of Anne of Green Gables. Ryder recognized the title although he had not read the books..
Randy, Joel, and Athena joined the group about half an hour later, and they chatted and played foosball at the nearby table. They all wandered outside barefoot and looked at the islands and the gardens. The meadows were extensive, and they included a number of hedgerows formed into mazes. The students wandered into one. Once inside, it took a while to find their way out. As Debbie and Rebecca raced ahead, Ryder and Cynthia meandered along slowly, and Ryder realized that he didn’t care if they ever found their way out. At one point Cynthia stopped and looked up into Ryder’s eyes for several seconds, then she laughed and said, “You’re almost too nice, Ryder.” The moment passed. Ryder was confused by her comment, and they eventually started talking about Debbie and some of her more legendary antics.
Looking at the sky, Ryder noticed there were no clouds. He could not get a fix on the sky, or ceiling, or whatever it was that was the top of Demeter. He made a note to check on that next time they had class. He wondered if there were clouds, if it rained, if it snowed. How could there be this much water if there was no rain? he puzzled.
Back in the pool area, the water fights had started again. Athena was in the pool. Becky and Debbie had caught Randy, and with a helping hand from Athena, they threw him in, jumping in after him. Ryder and Cynthia both started to laugh. Then Ryder said, “Too nice, eh?” He grabbed Cynthia and dragged her toward the water. As Ryder pushed her into the pool, she snagged his arm, and they toppled in together.
The next morning things started a little slow. Ryder was surprised how well he slept. Demeter was on a twenty-six hour clock, so sleeping ten hours was actually part of the schedule. The group met as a class in suite 319. The common room looked like its counterpart in suite 317, but was large enough to accommodate everyone. Multiple lounge chairs were formed into a semicircle, with Mr. Small and Miss Li trading off the lead of the discussion. The main topic for the day was some of the differences between Demeter and Earth. Mr. Small opened by discussing the ten-day week. “It’s actually a pretty cool system. Like on Earth, most people work a five-day week, but then they have a four-day weekend, then Titheday. Titheday varies by which schedule you’re on. It’s a spiritual day that you dedicate to your respective religious views. There are numerous churches and denominations. Some elect to spend a good part of the day in formal services, some select the day as a day to ponder. We’ll actually use tomorrow as our Titheday. We can help you find a service that relates to your beliefs once we get to Europe. Here on Arion, there is a nondenominational service at ten hundred hours in the morning. Yara and I prefer reflection, and so we will be leaving earlier to spend some time in the mountains.”
“That sounds cool. Do you have ATVs?” Joel inquired.
“No. Boating, fishing, and recreational vehicles are around, but those are for our four-day weekend. We use Titheday as a time of reflection. We’ll be climbing Sunday Silence tomorrow,” Mr. Small paused, “by walking.”
“Oh, in that case, we’re Methodists. What time did you say the service begins?” Randy asked.
“The nondenominational service begins at ten hundred tomorrow morning. Once we get to Europe, there are meeting rooms for Methodists, Catholics, Mormons, Buddhists, and most other faiths,” Miss Li responded. “If you’d like to join Roger and me, we will be leaving earlier, at five hundred hours. We like to watch the rising.”
“Rising?” Ryder perked up. “What’s that?”
“It’s when the clouds begin to clear and the lights of daytime appear. It’s spectacular!” Miss Li looked very enthusiastic. “It’s one of the things I miss most when we return to Earth, but then on Earth we have spectacular sunrises and sunsets.”
“I want to see that!” Debbie jumped in.
Ryder debated. Five hundred hours was like five o’clock in the morning. Even on the Demeter time system that was awfully early. But he’d promised to keep an eye on Dweeb. He exhaled slowly and added, “I think I’ll join you as well.”
After a geography lesson on Arion, where Ryder learned that the island was named after a horse god or something like that because the silhouette of the island looked like the shape of a horse’s head. The island had had various names depending on who occupied Demeter. As the interior was manned and governed by Terrans, Earth vernacular was the current naming protocol, although Miss Li indicated that some place names were of Cryellian origin. The Sagittarians had no interest in naming protocols.
The island was the largest in this particular archipelago at twenty-four miles long at the extremes, and about eighteen miles wide. It was the primary landing area for civilian interstellar craft, and fairly popular as a kickoff point for long weekends by the locals. At any given time there were between three and four thousand visitors, although most stayed at the resorts on the far side of the island, where there were numerous recreational boats and a three-mile-long strand of beach. There were only about a thousand permanent residents on Arion.
On break, Ryder and his peers wandered down past the pool and out into the meadows. They were immediately greeted with, “Hey, it’s the grubs!”
Minding his manners, Ryder called back, “And I see the hacky sack players are still here.”
“We’ve been waiting for you,” the leader of the group leered, pulling a gun on them.
Becky and Cynthia gasped in unision.
Ryder stepped forward in front of Cynthia and Debbie. “Hey, come on guys, it was a joke.” He noticed that Randy, Joel, and Athena stepped forward as well.
“We like jokes too!” another member standing behind the leader said as he pulled the trigger of another pistol. Ryder felt something whiz past his ear and heard a splat. He turned to see a green blister of paint on the wall behind him.
“Paint guns,” the leader stated. “My name is Aster Freeport from Cryella.” We’re the guys that keep you guys safe,” he added derisively. “We’re here for a weekend before we go back on duty, but we thought it would be a good time to help you understand that we’re here to serve and protect. Ensign Steerman suggested we provide you our own orientation.” He nodded toward the one who shot the gun.
“What do you have in mind?” Ryder was trying to think quickly.
“Have your teachers introduced you to Defense of the Realm?” Ensign Steerman inquired with a sneer.
“Never heard of it,” Randy piped up.
“It involves two teams. The idea is to see who can get the most players through the maze with the fewest hits,” Aster announced. “You start on one side, the other side defends with, in this case, paint guns. They sting and bruise, but no permanent damage. You guys want to play?”
Ryder was all for leaving. “We have class again in thirty minutes.”
“That’s what we expected,” Steerman oozed with sarcasm.
“We’re in!” Debbie volunteered. “We’ll kick your butts.”
Ryder turned. “Debbie, this is not a good idea.”
Cynthia chimed in at this point. “I’m not going to let somebody from—what was it? Crybaby? Cinderella?—make fun of Earth, and that’s final.”
Randy and Joel were actually holding Athena back physically.
Resigned, Ryder turned back to Aster. “How long does it take to play a game?”
“We can get through an offensive and defensive round in half an hour, easy. We’ll use ten minute timers. Will that do?”
“Okay, we’re in. What do we do?” Ryder asked.
Steerman came forward and offered them each a paint ball gun. “You each have fifty rounds in the magazine.” He demonstrated how the pistols worked. You can pick defensive positions anywhere in the maze. We’ll do offense first, so you can get off the first shots. Your guns use red balls; ours use green. If you’re clearly hit five times, you’re disqualified. Four or fewer hits, and you count toward the score. That’s all there is to it.”
Ryder took five minutes to discuss strategy with his team. They decided to pair up, covering the middle three corners, with Ryder taking the fourth corner backing into the hedge to get anyone who cleared as they passed by. They seemed to have pretty good odds with seven players to the other teams five, but the Cryellians had obviously played this several times before.
The round lasted less than ten minutes. Team Cryella used a wedge formation to drive through. They finished with two members of their team getting through unscathed. “Not bad, grub,” Aster said with a half-smile. We really expected to get three through, but your ambush paid off.” Ryder smiled, as he had actually drilled Aster in the back as his team had passed by. “Your turn,” Aster grinned malevolently.
Looking at how the Cryellians positioned themselves in the maze, Ryder could see the problem they were going to run into almost immediately. Team Cryella had virtually bunkered the second turn. Having played the other direction, it didn’t look like anyone could get through.
Randy, Joel, and Athena were for a full frontal attack. “That might work, but wouldn’t they just drill you with five rounds each then wait for the rest of us? Wait, I think I’ve got it,” Ryder said.
Two minutes later Randy, Joel, and Ryder made a full frontal assault. They were peppered with the five disqualifying hits, plus at least ten more. “Where’s the rest of your team?” Aster inquired.
From the opposite end of the maze they heard laughter. “Oh,” Ryder said offhandedly, “while we were attacking, they jumped over two rows of hedges. We have four out free. Guess we win four to two.” Ryder had remembered Debbie’s twelve-foot jump the first day on Demeter. Realizing the potential, he had convinced the girls to take a lateral leap over the second row hedge while Randy, Joel, and he distracted the bunkered Cryella team.
Steerman looked like he was going to deck Ryder, but Aster pulled him back with a sharp glance. He stepped forward and held out a hand to Ryder. “Nice play, grub. Hadn’t thought of that. Guess we’ve been stationed here a little too long.”
The two teams turned their separate ways. The girls were on time for class, but everyone had to wait for the guys to change their clothes and limp in. Those bruises were going to hurt for a week.
“Who or what are Crysmellians?” Randy complained, as he sat down gingerly.
Mr. Small smiled broadly. “Today it sounds like they’re losers.”
Ryder thought he could see daggers coming straight out of Miss Li’s eyes. “Don’t encourage this, Roger.” Turning to the class, she shifted to lecture mode. “Cryella is our ally, and partner in defending Demeter.”
Mr. Small interjected. “Under the direction of the Sagittarian navy.”
MIss Li continued. “The world of Cryella was discovered by the Sagittarians nearly four hundred years after they began conscripting Terrans. It had been missed in early searches for possible allies because it was a planet with an unlikely star. The planet itself is very young. As a result, it does not have a very vibrant eco-system.”
“It’s basically a cold, unpleasant rock,” Mr. Small added.
“Roger!” Miss Li snapped.
“Okay, okay.” He put his arms up defensively.
“The Cryellians are not native to Cryella, much as Terrans are not native to Earth. The population was part of a task force lost in action more than three thousand years ago. One battleship made a successful crash landing on Cryella, and the people survived through a regimen of harsh discipline and shear stubbornness some say. Just as in the case of Earth, the crew of the battleship endured but went backward in technology for hundreds of years, but did not lose all of their knowledge base.
“Along with eeking out an existence on a nearly barren world, they began redeveloping technology, but they had such limited supplies and equipment to start with that they stumbled backward for several generations. Cryella may be inhospitable, but it did have an abundance of ores that helped as the people tried to regain their science.
“When the Sagittarian navy found the planet, the Cryellians were already exploring their solar system, as devoid of life as it was. Their scientists were trying to recreate drives that would power the people back to the stars. The Sagittarians were delighted.”
Mr. Small, leaning back on his chair, added, “If you can figure out what delighted is for a Slick, you’ll have to explain that to me.”
Everyone in the class laughed, except for Miss Li. “Cryella became an ally to the Sagittarius League. The Cryellians were trained, and their equipment upgraded over the course of the next fifty years. Their new navy served in the vanguard of the task force to retake Demeter. Their losses were heavy in the first assault. This was devastating to Cryella. The world only has a population of two million. Nearly one hundred thousand Cryellians died in retaking the surface of Demeter.”
Randy raised his arm.
“Yes, Randall?” Miss Li gestured.
“What about us? You know, Terrans. If I follow you right, we were allies for three or four hundred years before that. Where did we fit in?”
“We really did not understand technology, and were treated as such. Where we fit in was in the long war to recover the interior of Demeter. We were the peons. It hasn’t been until the last hundred years or so that any Terrans have even been trained as pilots.” Miss Li seemed to be losing her composure.
Mr. Small stood up. “If you think back to feudal times on Earth, you could compare us to serfs. In fact, that is how we were treated. We were grunts in a high-tech war. We did not gain any respect until the battles for the caverns. We were especially good at running down tunnels and hand-to-hand combat against the Per-Sian guerilla forces.”
“And now?” Ryder asked the question that was clearly on all of his friends’ minds.
“Demeter is a protectorate of the Sagittarius League. The home guard of the asteroid is composed of Terran and Cryellian forces. Over the decades, Terrans were particularly good at routing out the Per-Sian defenders in the final bastion of the caverns, and gravitated to a primary mission of defense of the interior. Meanwhile, the Cryellians took the main responsibility for defense of the exterior of the planetoid. Although, piloting fighters is not exclusive to the Cryellians anymore, they dominate in this area. Terrans only got into flying fighters over the last hundred years, but have had several notable pilots, with a handful receiving reserve commissions in the regular Sagittarian Navy. Mr. Small is a good example,” Miss Li explained
“You’re a pilot?” Debbie almost jumped out of her seat.
“Reserve pilot,” Mr. Small corrected.
“Roger is being too humble.” Miss Li smiled broadly. “He has not only served in the defense forces, but has served two tours with the Sagittarian navy.”
“Wow!” Debbie exclaimed. “That’s for me.”
Cynthia squeezed Ryder’s hand, and he did not respond, although a retort was on the tip of his tongue.
Miss Li’s voice rose to get everyone’s attention again. “This evolution from mere grunts for the Sagittarians to a quasi-independent status came about as much by need as by intent. Serving as governor of Demeter was not a sought-after position in the military-focused Sagittarian navy, and it was too remote to appeal to any type of rising politician in the Sagittarian hegemony.
Mr. Small snorted. “As if any of those bureaucrats would spend any time away from their precious capital.”
Miss Li stared at Mr. Small, who immediately fell silent. “In the late eighteenth century, mid-level government officials began to be drawn from both the Cryellian and Terran forces. In the nineteenth century, the Directorate became a reality, with a Chief Officer, referred to as the Director-General, usually from Terra, and a Director from Cryella when Terrans held the Director-Generalship. You could think of the Director-General with responsibilities similar to a president or prime minister. The Director is actually comparable to the Secretary of Defense with more military responsibilities. In addition, three Associate Directors and four Assistant Directors eventually made a quorum of nine, with three Sagittarian members rotated based on fleet command.”
Joel smiled. “So we’re in charge.” He leaned back smugly.
Mr. Small corrected Joel. “We share control with the Cryellians, but that almost fell apart.”
“How?” Randy joined in.
Miss Li stood silent until everyone quieted down. “An effort to shift the government back to Sagittarian control was attempted in the twentieth century, by the late Director-General Algernon Pisces, and in fact the governing Council was reinstated, with nine members from the Sagittarian League and four from the Directorate, the DDF. However, after the death of Director-General Pisces, the new Director-General found a loophole in the Articles of Confederation stating that the Council had to be called into session by the Directorate. Despite several calls for a vote by the minority Sagittarian members of the Directorate, the DDF has avoided calling the Council into session, thereby blocking the Sagittarian League from retaking control through political channels.
“That’ll show them!” Joel exclaimed.
Miss Li frowned. “Keep in mind that they are our allies and our sponsors,” then almost under her breath she added, “but it was a nasty bit of work.” She looked embarrassed that the words had actually crossed her lips and hesitated before she continued.
“Directorate members look at the act by Director-General Pisces as a betrayal and a dark moment in the modern history of Demeter. They also perceive the Sagittarian role as that of an attempted coup. The Sagittarian’s meanwhile consider the block by the current Director-General as tantamount to rebellion, and the Director-General himself as a rogue charlatan.”
At that point Miss Li looked around the room. “A lot to think about. Let’s just say that our relationship with the Sagittarian League is somewhat strained at the moment. But things seem to have settled down. I believe that is enough to think about for one day. I think it would be a good time to return to the pool and unwind, don’t you?”
And with that, she dismissed the class.
I intend to continue releasing additional chapters of the book until we’ve made it through the whole book. You can also get a copy of Orions’s Spur: Volume 1 on Amazon as an e-book now if you wish at: