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PREVIEW OF THINGS TO COME
The Captain had moved his quarters directly behind the bridge shortly after the expedition cruise began. With a tendency to be impatient, he wanted immediate access to the nerve center of the ship. To waste time was more than slothfulness, it bordered on dereliction of duty.
Commissioned a research vessel, the ship had participated in a number of distinguished finds and the Captain intended to add to that record. Seven hundred meters long, and a crew of twelve, the vessel was an example of what a well designed ship and superbly trained crew could accomplish.
The Captain didn't suffer fools. He had personally selected all twelve crewmen. Each had graduated in their specialty at or near the top of their class. From propulsion engineer to cook, each crewmember was required to know at least two disciplines. The Captain's expectations were well known and never ignored. Aboard this ship, you provided information, the Captain made decisions. The only vice he permitted himself was a pipe.
Physical size made no difference. The shortest ever to graduate the military academy, he was the smallest at every officer's conference. But where he was concerned, size never equated to results. He excelled at martial arts. His small frame served him well in personal combat. He never lost a wrestling match at the academy. Academically, he graduated top of his class. Later, he was to serve as the academy director. His stint as head of the school, while marked by controversy, was acknowledged to be on a par with the school's founders. Now, he was realizing the second goal of his life. He had become an explorer.
The cruise, enteringits eighth month, was shorter than most. Frequent stops had made the trek one to be envied. Some had offered to go as unpaid collegiate auditors. But the Captain selected as observers, two ensigns who had shown particular skills for such an expedition, namely fewer biases.
Two months earlier, out of visual range of the inhabitants, the ship had dispatched its spectators with orders to gather detailed data on what they saw. Now, it was time to present their findings to the Captain.
The two junior officers, both up for promotion to lieutenant, Junior Grade, made their way to the bridge.
The Executive and Science officers returned their salutes and accompanied them into the Captain's quarters. Everyone knew the remainder of these young officers careers would be determined by this meeting.
"Good morning, Captain. The detail assigned to make the exploration reporting," the Exec said. Despite the crew and ship being very small, adherence to naval etiquette was mandated and rigorously followed.
"At ease, gentlemen. Please be seated." The Captain motioned to the armless chairs fronting his desk.
Protocol required the explorers speak only after the Captain directed them to do so. The creases in their starched and pressed uniforms resisted their posture as they sat nervously waiting. In the next few minutes, their leader would judge everything they'd worked for over the last year. Indeed their careers were at stake.
The Captain leaned on his desk, elbows taking very little weight, and slowly filled his pipe. He picked up a small tamper and teased the filling to his satisfaction.
He studied the two junior officers for a moment. "I trust your opportunity to unobtrusively observe went well and brought appropriate results."
The senior of the two Ensigns said, "Sir, we attempted to gather the facts as they presented themselves. Every effort was made not to cloud the data with our opinions." Both young officers knew their job was to present facts not opinions. First in their minds was the admonition of the ships science officer--any judgment would be the Captain's. You gathered facts--he made decisions.
"Proceed." It was an order, not a request.
The Ensign cleared his throat and recited without looking at his notes. "Nation states are the rule here. Some are governed by elected officials, some by hereditary monarchs. Use of force to secure a position of leadership is common as well. Territorial integrity is consistent throughout this world. As with any grouping there are very successful nations and at the other extreme very poor countries. There is some sharing of wealth but usually tied to political objectives. Currently there are fourteen separate conflicts occurring, resulting in two significant wars. Some of the conflicts are over religion, some the result of grudges carried often for centuries. We found crime in every state and it was dealt with ignobly. Disparate groups are found trying to mend many of the social ills observed. However, they are often misused by whoever is governing. We could find no evidence of a universal moral code although many leaders talk as if one existed. That concludes the report of our findings."
Dismissing the junior officers, the Captain punched a button on the consol in front of him and said, "Set a course for home. We will bypass this place."
With that, the ship headed away from the third planet, the blue planet, the one called Earth.
Doctor Maria Presk, buoyed by the bustle and spectacle, allowed herself a moment of self-indulgence as she looked around the sterile one-room lab. At a time when many scientists resisted the idea of DNA, were shunning the idea of DNA research, she had the vision to see far beyond them. And now, seven employees were hard at work, each the very best in some aspect of science that could help her seize the initiative in the new field of DNA research.
Plunked down on a less than desirable sprint of land amid a dismal setting in North Dallas with one bathroom, one specimen freezer vault, access to the fastest computer in the world, Control Data's CDC 6600, no office, and no windows, Advanced Bio-Yield, Inc. made its mark and worked tirelessly to stay ahead of the field. Maria made sure every cent possible had gone into salaries and the latest technology for these best minds. Just four years on their own in biochemical research marked them as an industry leader in the new untested science. Nineteen sixty-six had proven to be an excellent year. Her lab had discovered the genetic code that first deciphered the biochemical analysis of an amino acid.
With that discovery, Maria virtually ensured Bio-Yield remained light years ahead of others finally gearing up for serious DNA research. When many labs and investors doubted the wisdom of spending much time or money on it, she had gambled--and won.
David Rohm caught her piercing hazel eyes and smiled. She applauded her astuteness in hiring him and foresight in making him a full partner in the lab. His doctoral work in nano electro-bio-mechanical engineering already had become a hallmark in academia and industry. His addition to the staff put the final touch to the lab's imposing résumé.
The deep muffled rumble was followed by a sharp crack before the blast swept across the room. The explosion, short lived, seemed far away. Gaseous clouds followed the force, whipping her skin and clothes.
The detonation moved across the granite countertops, shattering beakers, Petri dishes, flasks, tubes containing treacherous creations sending their contents into the air; some in streams others atomized into gas, boiling, mixing.
Involuntarily, as if on a pivot, her head turned, and arms swung, shielding her eyes and face. For a brief instant, the peculiar fine, grey, primordial smelling cloud enveloped the entire room touching everything and everyone. Then it dissipated under the steady downpour created by the automatic fire suppressants.
In spite of the fear, the terrible crashing noise, she would remember the cloud.