Saturday, December 11, 2021

Extremus: Year 22

Olindse Belo and Yitro Moralez were two of the middle of the roadest candidates on the captain’s track. They weren’t great, but they weren’t bad, which made them perfect to serve as Interim Captain and Interim Lieutenant until the first shift ended in four years. Neither of them expected to be chosen for a permanent position on the executive crew, which means it will be easier to expect them to step aside once former Captain Yenant’s real replacement begins the second shift. They understood the situation when they accepted their new positions. They aren’t radicals or tyrants. They’re not particularly popular, nor divisive. They’re fine. They’re just fine, and they should continue to be this way until it’s over. The problem is they’re only good as peacetime leaders. If they find themselves having to make the hard decisions, they may struggle with it. Halan has to take his admiral duties quite seriously, so things don’t fall apart when the True Extremists make their move. And that is coming, there is no way it’s not.
There was a larger reason why Halan and Mercer were asked to abdicate that both of them should have seen coming. As Halan’s parents, and the other elders, were coming up with the plan to form this mission, they decided upon a rule. This would be a generation ship. It was very important to them, and it’s unclear why, but it excluded a lot of hopefuls. People who never wanted to die ended up not being able to come, because they wouldn’t be allowed to undergo longevity treatments. Omega was an exception that they did not foresee, and everyone was very aware that it was the fault of no one on this vessel, so they didn’t complain. Valencia definitely broke the rules when she joined him as a transhumanist, but as a temporal engineer, she enjoyed a level of respect and adoration that would make any captain envious. People just sort of let it go, and when both of them disappeared for a secret mission, they stopped bringing it up.
Old Man broke the rules as well, and turned both Halan and Mercer into transhumanists without them even knowing it. It was their cabins. He secretly modified their rooms to absorb their consciousnesses in realtime, even when they weren’t in those rooms. Had either of them been in a relationship, and invited their partner to spend a significant enough time in their cabin, the same would have happened to that hypothetical person. When the two of them were murdered by Ovan, their minds were automatically uploaded to the ship’s computers, preserving them until Dr. Holmes could clone their bodies, and download their minds into them. She claims to have not known this was happening, and only received an alert about their survival a few weeks after they were declared dead. She should have been punished for having gone through with it, but political conversations not even Halan was privy to saved her job. Perhaps she has something on the Consul that has insulated her.
So none of this is Halan or Mercer’s fault, but it doesn’t change the fact that their survival threatens one of the first rules of the Extremus mission. It’s not that the people don’t trust them. It’s more that the executive crew, the legal department, and the civilian government, don’t want people to trust them. If the passengers start getting the idea that maybe it’s okay to break the rule, and become transhumanists, it will cause whatever problems they think could result from the transition. The two of them couldn’t be allowed to remain in power, whether the government and crew thought they were still fit for duty, or not. Belo and Moralez would have to do...for now.
Even after sixteen months, it’s still weird, being on this side of the desk, but Halan has accepted it, and there is no going back now. As the Consul agreed, he’s been much more involved as the Admiral than he let Thatch be. Captain Belo has been incredibly gracious and grateful for it. Her main character flaw is that she lacks self-confidence, and constantly questions her own decisions. The crew and passengers need to see someone who believes that what she says to do is the right call, even if she’s in the wrong. Surprisingly, from a sociological standpoint, people would much rather see a leader who apologizes for their mistakes than one who doesn’t make any, but always plays it safe. On a psychological level, they’re disappointed, but people don’t giveth or taketh away their support based on their personal opinions. They tend to stick with the crowd, and the crowd says take risks.
She’s been doing well, listening to the Admiral’s advice. She relies on it a bit too much, though, and that should probably stop. “I’m glad it’s Friday. I really need to talk. My Second Lieutenant has been so infuriating. He just can’t accept that he’s not in the running for captain anymore. He still thinks he has a chance. I mean, he’s not interim, like me and Yitro, so his job is safe. Not that I feel like I should keep my job. I’m fine with stepping down when it’s time. But he just keeps holding that over my head. So he’s mad that he’ll never be captain, but he basically thinks that he outranks me, because my shift is shorter. It’s like, yeah, it’s shorter, buddy, but it’s still higher. You report to me. I mean, right?” She’s a pretty fast talker too, which some might consider a character flaw, but Halan just sees it as a cute quirk.
“We have to talk.”
“Oh, no,” Olindse says. “Last time you said that, we changed from our daily meetings to these weekly meetings. What, now you only want to hold them once a month? There aren’t enough hours in the day for us to discuss everything that happened from the last month.”
“No,” Halan answers simply.
“Oh, good.”
“We need to stop having regular meetings altogether.”
“What? No. What? No. You can’t abandon me, Not now, I need you. I would have voted for you to stay as captain, if we voted for crew members. I think we can all agree that you’re still pretty much in charge, and I’m just carrying out your orders. I can’t do this without you. I have no clue what I’m doing. I don’t know why my parents put me on the captain’s track. They shouldn’t have done that. It was stupid, it’s stupid. This is stupid.”
“Captain...”
“Please don’t leave me.”
“I’m not leaving you.” He can’t help but laugh a little. “I said we need to stop regular meetings; not meetings, full stop.”
“But you said regular meetings altogether. I heard you. You said—”
“I know what I said, Captain.”
“You don’t have to call me Captain. Just call me Olindse. I keep telling you that. Friends call each other by their first names. We’re friends, right? You said we were friends. I remember that too. You said—”
“Olindse.”
“Right, motor mouth.” She zips her lips shut, and throws away the key.
“I misspoke. I want you to come to me when you’re having problems, but I want you to use better judgment for what qualifies as a problem that you can’t solve on your own. We shouldn’t need to talk every week. I trust that you can handle most issues without assistance now. Last year, Consul Vatal—”
“Consul Vatal.” She spits it out of her mouth like it’s poison. A lot of people were not happy at the announcement that Halan and Mercer were relieved of their positions. The transition would not have been smooth had they selected an interim captain that didn’t agree with the majority on this matter. Both the crew and passengers follow her because she’s genuine and real. When Halan gives her a look, her eyes widen in horror. She starts scanning the floor.
“Don’t look for the key, that’s only a metaphor. Just listen.”
She nods respectfully.
Halan returns to what he was saying, “when Consul Vatal told me he made a shortlist for backfill, I was concerned. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know if I could trust his judgment. Before I even looked at the list, I figured he probably pooled from the civilian population. I thought he would try to merge the government and crew. The law does not specify who is eligible for the job. Hell, he could have appointed himself. Every single person on that list was studying to become captain, or join the crew in some capacity. I was impressed, but I was most impressed by the order. You and Lieutenant Moralez were literally at the top of it. It’s one of the few things that he and I have actually agreed on over the last few years. You..belong here. You deserve this, and we all believe in you. All you need to do is believe in yourself. Neither I nor he would have allowed you to sit in that seat if we didn’t think you could fill it. When you rely too much on my advice, it’s a bit of a paradox. By not relying on yourself, you’re questioning my decision to appoint you, but if you question that, why are you listening to me at all?”
“Well, when you put it like that...”
“Olindse, I’m here for you, but not every day; not even every week. You never told anyone that you requested these periodic meetings, correct?”
“Yitro knows. Everyone else thinks they were your idea. I call it my apprenticeship.”
“Good. I’m glad that has held up. So what you’ll do now is tell them that you put a stop to it. You made the decision to stop coming to me weekly, and I accepted it. This is important, because it would be rather odd if you were still an apprentice while you had your own apprentice.”
“What do you mean?”
Admiral Yenant presses a button on his teleporter. He retained full teleportation rights when he was promoted, but he technically should have lost his summoning abilities. Only the captain should be capable of transporting someone to their location against that person’s will. The Consul partially let him keep it because he didn’t give it much thought, but also because, in the nineteen years he was captain, Halan never used it once, so he probably wouldn’t abuse it now. Besides, Kaiora knew this was coming. “I’m not sure if you two have met. Captain Olindse Belo, allow me to introduce you to Future Captain, Kaiora Leithe, Third of Ten.” She was supposed to be Second of Nine, but everything changed when Halan became a clone. The whole interim thing has thrown off the math, and this is the change that Halan insisted upon. It was an unpopular choice, but Olindse should feel that she really is an actual captain, and not simply the closest thing they have. It’s about respect. There will now be ten captains, unless something else like this should happen, at which point, it will fall to that day’s leadership to make their own choice.
“Captain,” Olindse says.
“Captain,” Kaiora echoes.
“I didn’t realize the choice had been made.”
“Ehhhhhh,” Halan begins awkwardly, “people don’t really know how we choose captains. There’s been a lot of confusion about it, but in the end, I get to just decide whoever I want. Again, I don’t have to source from the captain’s track. I did, but it was all up to me. Consul Vatal and I—”
“Consul Vatal,” Kaiora says with disgust, mirroring Olindse’s attitude from earlier, even though she wasn’t here for that.
“I think I’m gonna like you,” Olindse says.
“Consul Vatal and I,” Halan repeats himself, “weren’t sure whether the decision should be up to the Interim Captain, or me. We had a long discussion about it, and determined that I was still more qualified.”
“That’s true,” Olindse admits, “but just so you know, I would have made the same decision.”
“I figured.”
“Future Captain Leithe will be shadowing you for the next three years, and that is her official rank. The crew will be expected to show her just as much respect as they will come transition day in 2294.”
“Understood,” Olindse says. “Happy to have you.”
“I appreciate your support,” Kaiora replies.
“Great. Now come in close, the two of you.”
The three of them huddle together, and then Halan teleports them to the mess hall, which has been once again restored to its rightful place as a respite for the crew from the passengers. No one was left to argue against it. Right now, the room is full of key crew members, including Eckhart Mercer, who transitioned to the Bridger section last year; Consul Vatal; Dr. Holmes; and Second Lieutenant Lars Callaghan. He really is annoying. Even now, while everyone is smiling, and congratulating Captain Leithe on her appointment, he’s bitter and scowling. Fortunately, unlike Ovan, Halan doesn’t get the sense that he’s a threat to the safety of this mission. And he does his job well enough, which is what’s really important. After the clapping and hugs are over, the party gets underway, and it goes all night.

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