“High Chancellor, if it may please the Gods and this Council, our scout ships and landing parties have returned from the surface with geological surveys, atmospheric reports, descriptions of lifeforms…”
“Where,” interrupted High Chancellor Hayes in his most irritating screech, “is ArcGeneral Hastings? Why isn’t he here to deliver this report in person? This is an affront to the Gods! How dare he send his female underling to report to this Holy Council!”
ArcLieutenant-General Helena Romano, dressed in her formal green Navy tunic and black pants, stiffened and stopped mid-sentence, as she absorbed the cleric’s volley of questions and complaints. The young officer colored slightly at the insulting reference to her gender. Churchers had little use for women in leadership roles of any kind. Then again, the faithful members of this collection of survivors had little use for Navy staff or anyone else in the technical class.
Romano took a moment to center herself. “My Lord, we intended no insult to your person, this Holy Council, or to the Gods themselves. The ArcGeneral is absent due to the arrival of the commander of the landing parties, whose report is of primary interest to this Council. He asked me to begin the report on his behalf so as not to keep you waiting.”
Hayes glanced at his fellow Chancellors, garbed in their formal crimson cassocks and capes, who likely expected him to lash out at the Navy female once again. Before he could speak, ArcGeneral Hastings entered the sacred chamber, stopped beside Romano and bowed reverently to Hayes.
“Good of you, ArcGeneral, to fit us into your busy day,” Hayes greeted the commander sarcastically. The cleric glared at the Navy officers with scorn as he waited for Hastings to speak.
I’ve got to handle this carefully and not let this pompous fool get under my skin, thought Hastings as he looked the High Chancellor in the eye.
“Good of you to hear our report, my Lord. I come before this august body with good news! The planet is habitable and there are many natural clearings on the rugged, jungle surface where settlements can be built. The air is somewhat acidic, but I am assured that in time…”
“Fine, fine, fine, ArcGeneral,” Hayes interrupted with a dismissive wave. “Have the landing parties’ reports transferred to this room so we may study them ourselves and decide on the best strategies to begin construction of our holy capital, Genesis City. In the meantime, have your people ready the necessary crews and machinery for transport on my order.”
Hastings bristled beneath his calm demeanor. He knew Hayes well enough to know that the cleric’s grandstanding was for the benefit of the Chancellery Council. After assuming the throne of High Chancellor just six months before Divine Scepter arrived at Genesis, Jerome Hayes needed to consolidate his position as a tough and effective ruler. And that meant riding roughshod over the Navy in public. Hastings would bide his time. He knew Hayes would ask for the advice of the technical experts – privately.
Brushing Romano’s arm to get her attention, Hastings bowed again to the High Chancellor. “Thank you, my Lord. I ordered the reports transferred before I arrived.”
Sneering at the officers, Hayes waved at them to leave and turned to his aide, Frater Jacobs. “Let’s see those reports on the main screen, please Frater.”
Hastings and Romano had turned on their heels and marched out of the chamber before Hayes had finished giving his last order. The pair strode silently down the long corridor leading to the lift that would take them to the bridge deck. They entered the lift wordlessly and the young XO keyed the control panel that sent them upward twenty-two decks in just seconds. Upon reaching the bridge, they nodded to the Skipper and proceeded to the adjacent conference room where Worowski awaited them.
The ArcColonel started to rise, but Hastings signaled him to remain seated. Worowski could guess from the grim expressions on their faces, that Hastings and Romano had been treated rudely. The other clue was that Hastings hadn’t been gone long.
“Rough ride, sir?” Worowski looked from one to the other to get confirmation.
“He was roughest on Helena,” Hastings ground out as he turned to the map projections of the surface that the ArcColonel had put up on the room’s five screens while they were gone. “Michal, this one in the center is the location your people recommend for the capital city?” Worowski nodded, but his explanation was cut off when Romano spoke up.
“Why not the one on the far right? It looks bigger and better suited for a large urban center.”
Michal rose and approached the screens. “Helena, it’s larger, but the topography is better over here,” pointing to the center map, “so construction will be easier and faster.”
Hastings checked the time and announced, “I predict our beloved High Chancellor will be getting frustrated trying to decipher those reports and will adjourn his meeting soon. Then he’ll be paying us a visit to get our recommendations. So let’s adjourn here, collect the input from our experts, and meet back here in, say, one hour?”
“Aye, sir,” and with that, Worowski left the room. Hastings then turned to his XO, “Helena, I’m sorry I had to put you in the line of fire today.”
Romano smiled ruefully, “Tom, their disrespect for women, especially Navy women, is not your fault. The good news is that now that we’ve arrived at Genesis, it’s only a matter of a few months until the Churchers relocate to Genesis City. I can’t wait to get them off our ship!”
“Indeed!” Hastings smiled at Helena. “Don’t forget that some of us will transfer to the new Navy Headquarters and Navy Academy buildings in the capital as well.” He hesitated for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. “I want you to stay up here to command this vessel, Helena. I need your expertise and leadership to get a Navy Yard built and docked to Scepter, then begin building a fleet to protect our new home and start exploring this system.”
Romano’s inner bruises, from the confrontation with Hayes, seemed to disappear with those words from her CO. She knew she had the right stuff to command, but it felt great hearing it from Hastings. And yet, she also felt a twinge of regret that she would be separated from Tom Hastings and his daughter, Alexis. “Thanks for your confidence, Tom. I’ll get on that right away.”
After Romano left, Hastings sat back in his chair and turned his eyes to the sensor screen showing a real time picture of the planet below. The sight was spectacular as the sun peeked over the horizon sending dazzling splashes of color along the planet’s surface. And so it begins, he mused as his heart filled with the beauty that was Genesis. Humanity gets its second chance on a virtually virgin planet. I wish I believed we are worthy of this place; but deserving or not, I’ll work hard until my dying breath to make this work.
Can the Church government keep humanity on Genesis united?