This section covers the Students' dinner and the help given to new friends.
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A Special Dinner
Marita and Kerstin went back to Marita's cabin together. George was already there. He was surprised to see two Kerstins arrive. He kissed them both equally and was just able to see the difference between Marita's natural lines and Kerstin's makeup. Marita and George helped Kerstin with the finer details of Spacer formal dress. Kerstin said that it was reminiscent of the fancy soldiers' uniforms of the last century. The white trousers and dark blue jackets were more decorative than functional. The jacket and the white vest were cut to fit a formfit collar but otherwise could have been modelled by an operetta dress designer. The thing that Kerstin found awkward was the helmet.
Marita said. "In space we always make sure that we have
a helmet within easy reach. We might have less than two seconds
to put it on in an emergency. We carry a helmet under the arm
like this on formal occasions to show that we are always prepared
for the dangers of space. We have very few formal dinners on Earth
but they are regular events on Lagrange Five, on the moon and
on all large ships. The formal dress uniform has had to provide
for a helmet to be carried because accidents can happen during
formal occasions as easily as at any other times."
George said. "Kerstin, you must practice putting the helmet on a few times because there will be a helmet check before the dinner is served. Nothing will happen because the helmet cylinder will only release air when the local air pressure is falling rapidly or is very low. The gauge inside shows how much time you have left when active and sleeping."
Kerstin tried putting her helmet on several times before she could make it lock to her formfit collar. Then she had more difficulty getting it off. Eventually she got the knack of operating the release lever as she started to lift the helmet off.
Then George told Kerstin that he would give the order 'Helmets
on!' and Kerstin should put hers on at the same time as he and
Marita did the same.
After several tries George and Marita were satisfied that Kerstin could put her helmet on and take it off again as if she had been doing it for years.
Undepoldus rode on Kerstin's collar as they went to the conference
Marita's students looked quite different in cadet uniforms. They were a little puzzled because Kerstin and Marita were dressed identically. Admiral Chang came in with Boku and another Spacer. Rear Admiral Chebychev and Commander Sincayvitch were accompanied by their wives, Sarah and Eva. Martha, Jane, Rachel, Sil, Lan Fang and Gurprit formed a nominal honour guard.
As soon as all were assembled, Admiral Chang introduced himself.
"For simplicity I will address you as Marita's students. I am Admiral Chang. I came here today so that I could personally thank you for the way you have contributed to the ongoing safety of Marita, George and Undepoldus. All Spacers are extremely skilled and able people - they have to be. The rank of a Spacer will usually indicate her seniority and proven capability in her chosen line of work. However a Spacer's rank cannot show that she has shown extreme efficiency, capability or courage when the occasion demanded. The Spacers League awards some token of recognition to any Spacer who has performed beyond the normal call of duty. This token may be a citation or a presentation to show how we honour her among her fellows. It is often the case that one Spacer may receive an award while others who worked with her may not. For example, a pilot might receive an award for getting a damaged ship back home. She would not have been able to do this without the help of her engineer and astrogator. Nevertheless, she would receive an award when her colleagues would not. Saving a ship and its crew when the engines are unbalanced requires extreme skill in a pilot. Today we have a similar situation. The Spacers League wishes to bestow a unique honour on someone who is not yet a Spacer. She is a part of a very efficient and intelligent team that has used its combined skills to promote Spacer security. The whole team's work is acknowledged by the Spacers League and will be recognised appropriately. Today I have the pleasure of awarding Miss Anita Kohlvits the Medal for Outstanding Service.
As Miss Kohlvits comes forward to receive her medal, Rear Admiral Chebychev will read the citation. However, before I present her award, I wish to announce that you, Marita's students, will be treated as full Spacer Cadets. Your status is that of junior Spacers who have all the rights and privileges of Spacers. You may remain here in London to complete your chosen degrees before transferring to the Spacers College. None of you will be required to sit the College entrance examination."
Commander Sincayvitch commanded. "Escorts, to your posts!"
Martha and Sil took their places on either side of Anita as Rear Admiral Chebychev began the citation.
"Anita Kohlvits, you have used your skills in an outstanding manner to observe the enemy and collate intelligence. You have transmitted the information gained in a totally secure manner to the responsible authorities on many occasions during the last few days. Your work was responsible for the rapid apprehension of a large number of criminals who conspired to harm two prominent Spacers. Your prompt actions provided sufficient warning to prevent death or injury to a prominent Spacer and your student colleagues."
The Rear Admiral then sat down.
Admiral Chang kissed Anita gently on both cheeks then held
both her hands together in his own.
"The Spacers League recognises the fact that some talented non-Spacers have skills that equal or exceed those of highly skilled Spacers. For such people the Spacers League provides a special entry into the service. They are neither required to sit examinations nor to complete the course at the Spacers College. I should know. I became a Spacer and then studied at the College some years later. Today I am authorised to announce that as of midday local time, you, Miss Kohlvits are appointed Spacer, First Class, with the rank of Lieutenant Commander communications engineer."
Anita was overcome. Tears were running down her face. Rear
Admiral Chebychev beckoned Marcos to come and stand with Anita.
Admiral Chang continued.
"Anita, I am also authorised to announce that your first tour of duty will be based in London. The location of your next tour of duty will be decided in July or August."
"Lieutenant Commander Kohlvits, I have great pleasure in presenting you with the Medal for Outstanding Service. The Spacers League welcomes you as a person who will bring great honour to the League."
Anita could not speak. Marcos needed help from Martha and Sil to get Anita back to her place.
Rear Admiral Chebychev spoke. "Lieutenant Commander McInnes.
Please make sure that Lieutenant Commander Kohlvits is properly
dressed for dinner."
Rachel, Martha and Sil led Anita and Marcos out of the conference room.
When they had gone, Gurprit closed the door.
Admiral Chang said. "Marita's students, I have been told by some of the best communications experts in the Spacers League that Anita must be made a Lieutenant Commander before I return to the USA. They said that if Anita were to fall into the hands of our enemies, my job as senior security officer would be just a paper title.
Anita is a genius. I am sure that you must be pleased to be friends of hers. Anita has had a chance to shine recently but your chances to shine in your chosen fields will come. I have been told that you are all as bright as Anita in your own ways so I look forward the time when you all can make a contribution to the Spacers League. When I was your age I hated long and boring speeches so I will keep this one brief. Shortly we will meet again at dinner. This will be a first for you but one of hundreds for me. At Spacer dinners we have two rules, one of which you are excused from on this occasion. The first rule is that all present should be prepared for a sudden atmosphere loss. This cannot occur here but it could occur anywhere where there are Spacers in space. We will therefore have our helmets with us. Before the dinner is served, all Spacers must check their helmets fit and work properly. The second rule is that all Spacers at dinner have the same rank as their helmets. Without our helmets our ranks would mean nothing if there was an emergency.
I have a Chinese name that means that my family name comes first. My given names are Tun Wong. When I was at school and after, I got the nickname 'Chang done wrong'. As a result I did my best to make sure that this was never true. I think that I succeeded. I hope that you succeed too, whatever your names are. Thank you for listening so attentively."
The established Spacers acknowledged the speech with the traditional single slap on the thigh. (It is impossible to clap with a helmet under one arm.) The students applauded until they saw that the Spacers were not doing so.
Rear Admiral Chebychev rose to say. "At dinner, it is traditional for the most senior officers to sit with the lower rank Spacers. Please leave spaces for Tun Wong, his friend Siv, Ivan and myself. We reassemble in the dining room in fifteen minutes. This meeting is now closed."
Two students came up to George, Marita and Kerstin as the three
started to make their way out of the conference room.
Marita said. "Don't be shy Alice. You can walk and talk with us at any time. What is on your mind?"
Alice said. "Marita, all of us wanted to be Spacers one day and we had dreams of what it must be like to be a Spacer. We knew you and what you had done and how good you are as a lecturer and tutor. Then we found out about you, George, and why you were given the job of looking after Undepoldus. We met Gurprit and heard about Boku. The more we learned about Spacers, the more we wondered if we could be good enough to be Spacers ourselves."
Ryuchi continued: "We knew that Anita was brilliant and would have a good chance but Alice and I wondered how we could prove that we would be good enough to follow in your footsteps. Now we have been given a chance that we never expected to get. Reality seems to be better that our dreams ever were. Now we wonder if we can measure up to the high standards that will be expected of us. Is there any advice that you can give us.?"
George noted the way they presented a single speech with two voices and was impressed. A group of eight had done the same sort of thing earlier. There was something about this way of talking that he could not quite fathom. Rapport between two or more members of a crew was an invaluable asset but too much could lead to presumptions that were not justified. If one said, one, two, three, four, five, would the other presume six when it was not intended or spoken?
He said. "Let others be the judges of your abilities and
your potentials but show what you are capable of when the opportunity
arises. Never presume that anything will occur unless you have
evidence that it is an event that has been seen to occur whenever
the same circumstances have arisen. If you toss an Earth coin
fifty times and heads land uppermost fifty times, is that evidence
that heads will land uppermost on the fifty-first toss? You know
that it is not. However, if a machine tossed the same coin with
the same energy every time, the result would soon be predictable
if the starting state was known. My advice is to make sure that
what you see is what is actually there, not what you think is
likely to be there."
Alice said. "Thank you George. We will try to make use of that advice. Is there anything else that you would like to tell us?"
George said. "I have observed the way that you and others of your group can deliver a single speech with many voices. You can do this because you have had a lot of practice with your game of target consequences. Now imagine how you would play the game if each successive speaker had a different target and none of you knew this. Would the first speaker have any idea what the third or fourth speakers might say? Your life as Spacers will always be like the position of the second speaker. You can try to influence the third and later speakers by what you say in response to what the first speaker said. Whenever you are presented with a new situation that demands action from you, you must be prepared. You must try to obtain the best result possible within your abilities for yourself and your colleagues. If you can do that, you can do what all Spacers do all the time."
Ryuchi said. "Thank you George for making your first point clearer. I can accept the implied criticism that we might place too much reliance on the anticipated actions of others. None of us could have predicted yesterday that we would be here today. We must now try to follow your advice to show ourselves worthy of the status we have been given."
Marita said. "Alice and Ryuchi, you have started on the right foot. It is a rule among Spacers that if you feel that you have not got the competence to deal with a situation, you should ask for advice from someone who has dealt with a similar situation before - if that is possible. You have asked for advice on how to proceed. You have behaved like Spacers already."
Kerstin said. "I would put it more simply. In my other job I wear a uniform that says. 'If you are lost, I will show you the way. If you need help, I can provide it.' From what I have seen in a very short time, a Spacer's tattoo is as good as my uniform."
The dining room tables were arranged in a three-pronged fork formation to maximise the available space. Where Spacers sat, their helmets were placed on table in front of them.
When all were seated, Jane stood up and gave the order. "Helmets on!" As luck would have it, Kerstin found herself opposite Anita. Both succeeded in putting their helmets on and removing them more or less in time with the established Spacers.
Kerstin asked Anita. "Who did your tattoo?"
Anita said. "I think her name was Martha. She warned me not to smudge it. I had to have all my hair cut off and I am very much tempted to feel what it is like to be bald, but if I did, I might smudge the tattoo."
Kerstin said. "You will soon get used to it. You will receive a treatment that stops your hair growing altogether and you will end up bald all over. A few days after you have had the treatment, any hair you have will start to fall out. I was told to check my pudenda on the third day and to pull out as much as I could. I was told that it would be quite painless and it was. I was also told of the inconvenience I would have if I didn't follow that advice. As I looked in the mirror it was strange to see myself as I was when I was around ten with no hair. It is a bit disconcerting when you have a shower around that time because a lot of hair washes off and a lot more ends up in the towel. Now I prefer to have no hair."
Anita then asked. "How did you get on when you first put on a formfit?"
"It was very strange. The legs are a bit like tights but a much firmer fit. I was told to put the gloves on before I tried to put the body stocking on myself. The diamond fibre feels so soft in one way but it will wear your nails away in no time if you treat formfit material like ordinary fabric. I found the hygiene arrangements a bit weird and awkward at first. Now I feel that using a hygiene station is easier wearing a formfit than not. Now I come to think of it, how could you fit your helmet without wearing a formfit?"
Anita said. "I was given a cotton vest with a collar attached to it. Rachel told me that I would not have to worry about fitting the helmet on properly because the collar would move when I tried to engage the helmet. She showed me how rigid her collar is when she raises her arms to put her helmet on. I asked her why I couldn't have a formfit like her because she had a new one made while I was with her. She said that although I might be able to put one on, I would not be able to take it off again without an anaesthetic. It would pull so many hairs out that I would scream with agony while it was coming off."
Kerstin said. "I was told that too. I was not required to put a formfit on until seven days after I had had the hair removal treatment. Then I was tested to check that I had no more hair growing anywhere. As I was blonde, this took more time than if I had been dark."
Marcos asked. "I would like to know if you can share companionship while wearing a formfit.?"
Kerstin said. "It is impossible with a standard formfit but the crews of small ships have specially made formfits. They have something that is like a sort of removable diaper that is attached to a belt. They also have special links that enable a couple to hold position more easily in zero gravity. They are not recommended for use where gravity exceeds one tenth gee. I think that you should ask George or Marita about them because I have never been off Earth so I cannot describe what it is like to wear one."
Jill asked. "Do you prefer to be a Spacer or a policewoman?"
Kerstin answered. "There is no doubt that I want to be a full time Spacer one day. I can only justify my presence here now if I spend a lot of my time as a policewoman. At the moment I have the best of both worlds. I can share all the advantages of being a Spacer while I am still working as a policewoman. I can also share George with Marita and Marita has become my best friend. I am glad that I do not have to make a choice at the moment."
Giovanni asked. "Have you met the queen of Sweden? A Spacer who looks just like her came in with Admiral Chang. She was introduced as Siv."
Kerstin said. "Yes, I have met the queen and I have also met Siv. I am sure that Siv would like to talk to you. Before our next course is served I will ask Siv to exchange places with me. Then you can ask her yourself."
Anita looked at Kerstin and pursed her lips for a moment. Kerstin was aware that the way she had tried to dodge the question could not work with young people as bright as those around her. Nevertheless they did not pursue the question further. They were all aware that Kerstin had information that she could not divulge to anybody.
Marcos asked. "What do you think of Undepoldus?"
Kerstin was relieved that the questioning had taken a different course. She answered. "To be honest, I don't know what to think. When I first encountered him I thought that someone had put a bottle brush in the bed. In a way he looks a little bit like a bottle cleaning brush and he certainly feels like one. In some ways he is a bit like a pet dog. He seems to show affection in his own way and certainly likes to be with George. Most of the time he does not do much except eat rocks in a rather messy way but he always cleans himself afterwards. George thinks that he is some sort of plant and animal combination. He uses sunlight, water and rocks. He likes limestone, marble and chalk, and he also likes to try samples of other rocks now and again. He does not like anything that was once alive like plants or flesh. He would rather eat a plate than touch any of the sort of food that we eat on it. George says that his whiskers work with light. Light goes into them so that he can do some sort of photosynthesis but also he can see things with his whiskers. He can recognise people and he can move like a sort of worm. He can produce some incredibly vicious chemicals that can burn people but if he wants to. He has given me a sort of kiss. When I first encountered him, George and Marita told me to lie still so that Undepoldus could explore my body. It was the strangest sensation I have ever had in my life. His whiskers were a bit tickly but I had the feeling that he was both very gentle and very curious. It was a bit like being explored by a very gentle blind doctor.
I think that you must have heard how a man threatened to shoot me with a pistol and Undepoldus gave the man such a nasty burn that he died of heart failure. Two others that tried to break into Undepoldus House had some of his digestive juices dripped onto their backs. They will never try to break into Undepoldus House again.
You asked me what I think Marcos. I think that Undepoldus is strange, wonderful, mysterious and friendly in a very reserved sort of way. Does that answer your question?"
Marcos indicated that it did.
Kerstin said. "Now I will keep my promise. I will ask Siv to join you."
Kerstin approached the queen and said. "The students where I was sitting would like to talk to you. Would you like to exchange places with me?"
The queen got up at once. She said to those she had been talking to. "Please excuse me because some of your other friends want to talk to me. I hope that you won't mind if Kerstin takes my place."
The Queen took Kerstin's hand for a moment and then guessed
that she could not touch talk. Kerstin said quietly in Swedish.
"En student har sagt. 'Kvinnan sers ut likaså drottningen.'
Jag har sagt ingenting." ("A student has said.
'The woman looks like the queen.' I have said nothing." )
The queen said "Det spelar ingen roll." ("That is not a problem." )
Kerstin found herself face to face with Kjell. Kjell winked.
Kjell said. "Det är svart för henne nuförtiden, eller hur?" ("It is difficult for her nowadays, isn't it?")
Gail said. "You don't have to worry Kerstin. it is an open secret that Siv is the queen of Sweden. All of us know because we asked Marita a lot about Sweden. We have been keeping her happy by asking her as Siv about her life as a Spacer. She was a bit shocked when she asked our names and Kjell said his. Kjell thinks that she recognised his Gothenburg accent. He knew who she was immediately and went out of his way to lead us into questions about her life as a Spacer."
Kerstin said. "I think that she was grateful for that. I know that she wanted to be a full-time Spacer and was very sadly torn when her sister abdicated. As a queen she has to play down her Spacer relationships but I know that she was Admiral Chang's partner for a long time. Then she thought that she would never be Queen and could live her life like any ordinary Spacer. The news must never get out that she was here in London at the same time as Admiral Chang. The gossip writers would have a field day."
Suri said. "I am sure that we can do something to help. Is it possible for you to contact your colleagues in the Swedish Police to arrange for her to be seen in a smaller city like Sundsvall to scotch any rumours that she was here?"
Kerstin said. "I don't know what arrangements have already been made. Gurprit or Boku could have a quiet word with the Admiral to see if a cover story has been arranged."
Jean said. "It is a pity that she is not French. Nobody cares who has lovers in France. I have a better idea. If Gail or Suri went over to Admiral Chang, they could talk to him with touch talk while speaking about something else. Maybe he could be told that we want to talk to him so he would come here and you could take his place. Nearly all the senior officers have changed places between courses so it would not seem unusual. I can arrange that Anita knows our plans while Siv is with her because she is facing me."
Kerstin said. "OK Jean, Go ahead. "
After a few seconds Jean had attracted Giovanni's attention. Shortly afterwards Anita rubbed her eyes as if she was slightly tired. Jean's movements were very small and unnoticeable unless it was known that he was signalling. Giovanni signalled back and Kerstin was able to see that he was relaying Anita's answer. In the meantime Jill and Marcos were doing her best to hold the queen's attention so that she would not notice Giovanni's signalling or Anita's lack of attention.
Jean said. "Boris contacted Marita with the same problem. Marita said that you have better contacts Kerstin. Both Boku and Gurprit have been told. Boku will talk to Admiral Chang and relay his answer to Susannah. We will get an answer shortly. All twenty-four of us are working on the problem. The difficulty is that our main contact in Sweden is the queen and she is here."
A few seconds later Jean said. "Leah has received a message from Boku. Gurprit will contact your embassy immediately after the last course. He will say 'The ventriloquist has a problem, please contact the ventriloquist.' I don't know if I have interpreted the message correctly."
Kerstin said. "It is perfect Jean. I am the ventriloquist and Boku was my dummy. The Swedish Embassy will contact me on a secure circuit. I can then tell them what we have been discussing."
Kjell said. "Leah has suggested an idea that will get around the queen actually being seen. If your ex-colleagues use a boat off the coast at Sundsvall, they could send out a mayday signal. The rescue services can be told that it is a security operation and that the names of the people rescued should not be released. Then someone could drop a hint to the news services in say Denmark or Norway that a lady with the name S. Lindkvist has been in a boating accident and has been rescued. If anyone asks if the queen was involved, the answer will be 'No comment'. That should get the Swedish news services buzzing and reporters trying to find out where she is near Sundsvall."
Kerstin said. "That idea is even better than you think Kjell. I have a cousin in the sea rescue service at Sundsvall."
Jean had been relaying the conversation verbatim but Siv had noticed Giovanni's signalling.
Jean said. "Anita has told Siv of our suggestion. She is very pleased. Gurprit is leaving. Chang knows. Follow discreetly. Get the Embassy to contact Leonov if and when it hits the Swedish media."
Kerstin said. "I am impressed. I don't think that many Spacers know what was going on this evening. Your communication and networking methods are a great asset."
Shortly after Kerstin left, Admiral Chang took her seat.
He said. "I don't know if your plan will work but I commend you for trying. I gather that you were discussing the problem and searching for a solution throughout the dinner. You were very discreet. Your signalling system is nearly as good as touchtalk for discretion and conveys information much faster. I must learn it. I was only aware of what was going on when Boku used touchtalk to tell me that you were aware of the situation and were trying to find a practical solution. You reached a possible answer a few minutes later. I hope that it works. If it does, Siv Lindkvist and I will pledge our continuing partnership to you all."
Kjell said. "Tun Wong, thank you for the compliments. May I as a Swede suggest that your partner adopts another name like Myfanwy Jones or Annie MacDuff. If the Scandinavian media services hear that you have another Swedish partner, they might draw conclusions."
"Kjell, thank you for that logical suggestion. I thank you all for your consideration and loyalty. I am moved that you have tried to do your best to help myself and, um, er, Annie. Shortly I will have to get on my hind legs again and play the part of the senior officer present. When I give my speech I plan to make a reference that you will all understand. Thank you again."
The Admiral went back to the chair he had left. It was clear that he was waiting for Kerstin and Gurprit to return before beginning the closing speeches. He did not have to wait long.
As Kerstin entered she looked at the Admiral and gave him a
smile and a wink.
She had just resumed her seat when Admiral Chang stood up. The room quietened.
Admiral Chang said. "Tonight we are marking the achievements
of a very talented group of young people. There has never been
an occasion like this before. Sometimes a non-Spacer finds herself
in the position to help the Spacers League in a way that demands
recognition. I was once lucky enough to be in that position. I
was asked if I would like to become a Spacer. I accepted and a
dinner not too much unlike the one we have had tonight was organised
in my honour. I was one individual then. Tonight we honour twenty-four
young men and women whose attributes are outstanding. I have had
the privilege, and I do mean this literally, the privilege of
meeting many of them this evening. Tonight I have witnessed something
that makes it ever clearer that age, rank and experience cannot
always find answers to some of the problems that face us today.
At this point in time I cannot say what it is that I saw but I
may be able to explain it in more detail later this evening. Suffice
it to say for the moment that I have been personally shown great
respect and consideration by some young people who had never met
As I said earlier this evening, when I was young, I didn't like long speeches. So out of respect to all the young people present I will just say that I am delighted that you have joined our gang. Thank you all."
The door opened and Sancha Alonso showed her face. She gestured
to Boku who went to hear what she had to say.
Boku went over to the Rear Admiral and whispered something in his ear.
He in turn whispered to Admiral Chang. Then the Admiral stood up again. He said.
"Spacers all - and I include you in that Kerstin - I have just received news that we will be visited shortly by the Swedish Ambassador Mrs. Karin Rasmussen. I have been told that she has some news that is so important that she has decided to come here personally to deliver it. As a mark of respect I ask all Spacers of Swedish origin to stand up when she enters the room. Thank you."
Commander Sincayvitch stood up and said. "Fellow Spacers.
I have been made aware of a situation that has occurred this evening.
A prominent Spacer has requested that her name be changed in Spacer
records to protect her relatives from embarrassment. Commander
Siv Lindkvist wishes to be known in future as Commander Annie
MacDuff. I ask all Spacers who approve of this change of name
to say Aye and those who disapprove to say No. Please make your
views known." There was a tremendous roar of "Aye".
The Commander said. "Did I detect a No in that answer. If there was a Spacer who said No, please say No now."
There was silence. The Commander resumed.
"I declare that the vote is unanimous and in favour of the change. The Spacers League as represented here recognises Annie MacDuff as a true Spacer with the rank of Commander."
The door opened and Sancha showed her face again. Rachel, Sil, Lan Fang and Martha formed an impromptu guard on either side of the doorway. Sancha opened the door wide and announced.
"Please welcome our honourable guest, the Ambassador of Sweden, Fru Karin Rasmussen."
Marita, Kerstin. "Annie" and Kjell stood up and so
did the twenty-three other students.
The Ambassador stood near the top table and said.
"I gather that all of you or at least most of you are aware of a delicate situation that has arisen. I have been advised to choose my words carefully. Your combined efforts this evening have defused a potentially embarrassing situation for our country. There was a danger of a constitutional crisis that has now been averted. If you do not understand the significance of the news I have to give you, I am sure that your fellows will be able to enlighten you afterwards.
Tonight there was an accident at sea in the northern Baltic Sea. We call it the East Sea. The rescue services were called out and managed to save the lives of all who were on board the sinking ship. The names of the passengers were not publicly released because people had to be informed that their relatives were safe. However, shortly after the rescue was announced in Sweden there was a report on the Norwegian vidcom service that our queen had been aboard the ship that sank. For diplomatic reasons the Swedish government minister for home affairs has stated that he cannot confirm or deny this report. There was another report from Denmark that the queen is recovering in a private house in or near Sundsvall. The minister for home affairs said that he had nothing to add to his original comment.
These reports, if confirmed, will quash any rumour that the queen has been seen in London today. There have also been rumours that our queen might abdicate if she had to choose between being our queen or a Spacer. None of us want her to have to face that invidious decision. The two sets of rumours have been linked because this Club is the biggest Spacers Club in Europe and it is in London. I do not need to say any more on this subject. Thank you for your attention."
Admiral Chang stood up and beckoned to "Annie". She
joined him with a face full of smiles and tears.
He said. "Tonight I wish to register my partnership with Annie MacDuff. I hereby revoke any reference to any partnerships that I may have had in the past."
Annie said. "Tonight I wish to register my partnership with Chang Tun Wong. I hereby revoke any reference to any partnerships I may have had in the past."
At a signal from the Commander, everyone gave the traditional Spacer cheer of Hey! followed by the Spacer song of welcome to a new partnership.
The Ambassador came over to Kerstin who was still standing.
She said in English. "Miss Broberg, you and your friends
here have done us a great service. A similar situation occurred
here in Britain more than one hundred and fifty years ago. Times
have changed but certain prejudices persist. Nobody wanted the
media to be full of speculation about our queen and her relationships.
Your colleagues have behaved with alacrity and discretion. I was able to inform the minister of home affairs only a few minutes before the news broke in Norway. He is a very loyal Swede and I know that he will do everything to keep the sea rescue story alive for a day or two. I understand that the Spacer's League will arrange that the queen will be found in Sundsvall in a few days time. There will be a press release that she wishes to have time away from public affairs to get over the horror of the accident. The queen will be assisted by your small friend Miss Adedeyo.
The Spacer's League is looking for a Spacer who resembles our Queen who can be made up to look more like her. She will appear to be Annie MacDuff. She will not have to look exactly like the queen but close enough to convince the news media that she was the cause of all the rumours. Please introduce me to the students who helped you tonight. I gather that one of them is from Gothenburg."
Kerstin introduced the Ambassador to Kjell and his partner Gail.
The Ambassador said. "I am very pleased that Sweden has a representative in what I gather is a very special class of students. I understand that it was you Kjell who suggested that Admiral Chang's friend should have a Scottish name and the sea rescue proposal."
Kjell said. "Ma'am, it was Suri here who first suggested the cover story that the Queen was seen in Sweden. Because Kerstin was here and had not long left Sweden, and was known by the Sundsvall police, I thought that there ought to be a way of producing a news story that the Queen had been seen in Sundsvall. Our communications were good tonight. Leah suggested to me that the queen should be heard about but not actually seen. She understood that Sundsvall is on the coast and that a boating accident might be reported. Pietro said that it was not usual for the names of rescued passengers to be publicly released for some time. This was relayed directly to me because of my Swedish background and Kerstin was sitting near me. I knew that all major cities on the coast have sea rescue services so I told Kerstin about the suggestion. Kerstin also had a link with the Sundsvall sea rescue service as well so that part was easier to organise. The whole thing was organised between us with each of us making a small contribution."
"I am sure that you are being very modest Kjell. How could your group share information so quickly?
Kjell said. "Ma'am, much of the credit goes to Jean here. Armand and Clive had produced a sign language that was a development of that used by the medical profession in France. They taught us this language so that we could use it in an emergency but none of us had thought of using it during dinner this evening. Jean was facing Giovanni and Anita on the next table so he started communicating with them. It was soon noticed that the sign language was being used so others used it to spread the information more widely. You may also know that Spacers have a touch language that can be used when all other forms of communication are impossible. The combination of the two silent languages made it possible for ideas and suggestions to be exchanged quickly without being noticed. As this was a Swedish problem and Kerstin and I were sitting opposite each other, it was natural that the collected ideas should be routed to me. It seemed that I had all the good ideas but it was very much a joint effort."
The Ambassador said. "I had heard that Marita's class of students was a very special group but what you have said can only add to the accomplishments you have been credited with. May I ask how you arrived at Annie Macduff?"
Kjell said. "That one came from Alice ma'am. Her surname is Shah. She realised that someone's surname quite often causes people to think about their origins. Her father was from a mixed marriage as they called it some years ago. She said that someone who wanted to be anonymous in any country should have a name that was recognisably indigenous if it was possible. She suggested Myfanwy Jones and Annie MacDuff as examples of Welsh and Scottish names that would be easily identifiable in England. If our friend wanted to conceal her origins she should adopt a name that would be relatively uncommon in England so it would be noticed, but very clearly a British name that had no links with any other country. Tun Wong chose Annie."
The Ambassador said. "You are such a talented group that you could control the world if you wanted to."
Jean answered to save Kjell from further explanations. Ma'am, that is impossible. The world is already controlled to some degree by the Spacers League. If you doubt that, have a look at a Spacer coin someday and ask yourself what it is officially worth and what it can buy. Then check with Marita how much Spacer money she has. She has enough to buy every major company in Sweden and possibly Norway too. Spacer money will never be used in that way but it could be, and every government in the world knows this. They have a saying here in Britain 'He who pays the piper calls the tune.' The Spacers League could pay all the world's pipers and could call all the tunes if they so wished. They do not wish to, nor do we."
The Ambassador thought for a moment and said. "With such resources at their disposal, surely there must be a temptation to use them."
Suri said. "Madam Ambassador, this world is a very small part of a minor stellar system in an average galaxy among billions of galaxies. The Spacers League already controls access to our solar system and its resources. One day, perhaps in our lifetimes, we will use those resources to go to other solar systems. Taking over the Earth would provide the League with very little gain and an enormous amount of responsibility. There is no temptation to use power on Earth ma'am."
A gradual hush spread through the room as the Commander stood up.
He said. "Spacers all, you know that I have done my best to get to know you all so that I can help you with any problems that you may have. Tonight there was a very special problem to solve for a very special person. So far the problem has been alleviated but not solved completely. After studying my records I discovered that of all the Spacers that I know, one could become Annie McDuff, at least temporarily. I have discussed it with her and she has volunteered to take on the job for a few weeks. We have the double advantage that she is Scottish in origin and has a slight resemblance to the real Annie McDuff. With the aid of the expertise of Boku Adedeyo she looks very much like Annie McDuff. However, those of you who know her well will be able to recognise her by another name.
In a moment you will be able to see the two Annies MacDuff together. Images of Tun Wong and the second Annie will be issued by the Spacers League in the USA in a press release announcing their partnership. Those that know about Tun Wong might comment on the fact that his former partner and his new partner have striking similarities. They will nevertheless notice that they are not the same Spacer if images of the two are compared. It is hoped that this action will crush any rumours that a certain lady has been seen in London today."
The two Annies came into the room and stood side by side. Boku had done a brilliant job. George was able to recognise Rachel McInnes because he knew her so well. She had been his share partner several times. Rachel's ears were slightly larger and further back. Her eyes were just a little further apart. If the two Annies had come in separately, one could easily be mistaken for the other. Without any prompting, all of the Spacers present shouted Hey! together. Tun Wong and Annie 2 posed with beaming smiles while Gurprit prepared the holos. Then the two Annies returned to the places where they had sat previously.
Leonov stood up and said. "This evening was intended to be a happy celebration to welcome twenty-four new Spacers into the Spacers League. You all have contributed to making this evening an even happier event for one very special partnership. Some time in the future a certain nameless Spacer will be officially promoted to the rank of Commander but the confidential records will show that the promotion occurred today. Will you all show your approval for this promotion in the traditional way." Leonov's words were answered by a very loud 'Hey!'
The Commander rose and said. "Before I formally close this dinner I can say that I have been authorised to declare mufti until tomorrow morning. While enough of you remain here in this dining room, robowaiter service will be continued for drinks and light refreshments. I now declare this dinner formally closed."
Annie 1 made a point of talking to all of Marita's students to thank them for their help and to get to know them better. The Ambassador stayed a lot longer than she had originally intended. She spent a lot of time talking to Sarah Chebychev and Eva Sincayvitch. It was more than two hours later when the assembled gathering started to break up.
Undepoldus had spent most of the evening wandering around the tables meeting everyone present but he never said a word to any of them.
The next section covers the events up to and including one morning in June.
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