Bewildering Stories

Table of Contents
Chapter 30 appears
in this issue.

Observation One:
Singing of promises ...

by Michael E. Lloyd

Chapter 31: Captain’s Office, Mater

The Captain was determined to run this meeting smoothly and speedily ...

‘I did not expect to have to draw you all together again, so soon after our recent, very effective progress review.

‘However, it is essential to do so. I have received another Special Communication.’

Carla and the Chief Surveyor looked pointedly in Quo’s direction. She parried with a perfectly executed glare that said, unmistakably, “Don’t look at me!”

The Captain ignored their antics.

‘The Council has added a new Imperative to our objectives. It has been named “Limited Unharmful Exploitation” — a fascinating choice of words!

‘This change obliges us to place absolute focus on the mineral resources of the Earth. It confirms that we must move at once to the implementation of the plans which the Chief has now fully prepared. It not only requires us to build, as originally missioned, a comprehensive model of the Earth’s natural resources (an exercise which, for practical reasons that we all understand and accept, we have scarcely begun) ... it also requires me to stand ready to implement some basic exploitation experiments on which, as you are well aware, the Chief and I have been briefed as part of our mission training.

‘You will all soon become familiar, as before, with the full text of the latest Special Communication. Meanwhile, are there any immediate questions?’

There were none.

‘In that case, Phase One of our mission will be considered officially complete when, but only when, Antonio Murano has returned safe and free to his home environment. Our support of that outcome remains paramount.’

Quo and Carla both nodded their unreserved acceptance of the Captain’s crystal-clear mandate, and the Chief Surveyor smiled her acknowledgement of the implied order to commence Phase Two as soon as that goal was achieved.

‘Now, my friends,’ winked the Captain, opening her desk drawer and removing a bottle and four sparkling glasses. ‘I have a few opinions of my own to share with you, before allowing you to return to your duties.’

When their glasses were fully charged, the Captain continued her rather less formal thinking.

‘I realise that we have not yet spread the net of our general Insight Gaining very widely. We are situated over Africa, so we have been limited to the territories in that section of the Earth’s circumference. From that base we chose, arbitrarily but with sensible intent, to operate initially on the continent of Europe.

‘But I have no doubt, from the limited but already useful content of our General Facts Model, that we could have much more to learn, in terms of the totality of human mores, from a similar level of observation of the Americas, and of China, and possibly of several other major regions of population and power.

‘We are all aware of the potential duration of our full Mission. In that context, the amount of time we have spent in Europe — less than three Earth weeks — is very small indeed.

‘For the time being, we must abandon our gaining of insights into the general integrity of the Earth’s peoples and their leaders. I am already resigned to such peremptory changes of direction. But I have little doubt that our leaders will re-prioritise that aspect of our mission at some stage. Everything comes around ...’

Quo was clearly keen to participate, and appeared a little frustrated.

‘Are you suggesting, ma’am, that we do not, even now, have a complete mission policy and a stable set of Imperatives and Aims?’

‘But of course we do not, Number Two! Have you perhaps lost your famed abilities at Chess? We are little more than pawns in the grand game of empire ... and, in truth, you know that as well as I do, my dear friend!’

Quo nodded, rather abashed, and resolved to keep her mental silence for the rest of the meeting.

The Captain, acute observer and fine manager that she was, immediately refilled the glasses of her trusted team-mates and changed the subject.

‘You will all, I hope, recall the rarely mentioned “Passive Moral Imperative”. So rarely mentioned that, as you will later notice, the Council felt the need to remind us of its main features in the latest Special Communication!’

As her colleagues all smiled their polite smiles, she turned to look Quo straight in the eyes.

‘In my considered opinion, Number Two, you have implemented that Imperative with great flair and passion, in your sustained and hopefully successful efforts to encourage those true-hearted individuals, with whom you have engaged on Earth, to persevere on their paths of immaculate intent. You are the very embodiment of the Moral Imperative. I raise my glass to you!’

Quo — wise, unassailable old Quo — who only moments earlier had been teased and silenced, smiled a smile almost as broad as Carla the Finder’s, and happily acknowledged her Captain’s honest praise and the toasts of her highly respected colleagues.

Then the Captain looked hard at Carla.

‘Your gift to Toni was inspired and wonderful. Return now to your post, take back your personal watch, and safeguard him until he is home.’

‘I will.’

Proceed to the conclusion ...

Copyright © 2003 by Michael E. Lloyd
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