CHAPTER 11 – Strabo Diaz
Before allowing Raphael and his party to return to Jolf, Lord VaCoupe insisted they stay overnight at the VaCoupe compound in Medina once again. When the Golden Sparrow landed behind the VaCoupe household, they were greeted by an audience of strange males. The crowd was apparently from the Command, all the men being in uniform with their rank markings. Raphael was stunned at the reception, as he was greeted by this crowd of strangers when he and his family disembarked from The Golden Sparrow.
The men crowded around the glistening golden ship, crawling under her belly, examining the vessel for seams (there were none), checking the mechanics of the legs, stairs, doors, and console. One of the men boldly approached where Raphael was standing with his brother Roméo and asked him: “Are you the one who found this amazing ship? Where can you get more?”
Startled, Raphael scouted around for Lord VaCoupe who was standing off to the side, engaged in speaking to a huge white blonde man, an Ashkerian by his looks. He took a deep breath to calm himself and finally addressed the curious stranger: “Excuse me, sir, but who are you – who are these men? Why are you standing outside our household uninvited?”
“I am Navigation Specialty Commander Ernesto Garcia, currently based out of Elexa Spaceport while our new ship is being built – and you are, sir?” replied the commander, saluting Raphael who happened to be wearing his Command uniform.
“I am Lord Raphael Kantor-VaCoupe. Were you all invited here by Lord Demetrius?” asked Raphael.
The commander nodded in reply and said: “Yes, sir; it would seem Lord VaCoupe failed to inform you of our arrival, Lord Raphael?”
“Yes, it would seem so, Commander Garcia,” replied Raphael, feeling somewhat irritated. He was tired after the stress of the last week in Alyona and just wanted to leave the politics and people behind. Still, he was now a lord and responsible for behaving far more diplomatically than perhaps he was formerly accustomed to being. He replied: “Commander, in answer to your first question, yes – I’m the man who found The Golden Sparrow, but as far as I know, currently she is one-of-a-kind. Lord Demetrius, my brother Roméo and I are starting a family business to create such beautiful ships – but it is only in the beginning stages, discovery, and planning.”
“Did you build her, The Golden Sparrow? I’ve never seen a ship of that size with such a sophisticated design,” said Commander Garcia. “You said you ‘found’ her…what did you mean by that, my lord?”
“Just what I said, Commander… I found her and where is currently a secret known only to a few people. Are there any shipbuilders or engineers in your party, Commander? “replied Raphael curious to see what Lord VaCoupe had in mind about the family business.
“Yes, my lord; most of the men you see here are stationed at the Elexa shipyards. They all heard about a little golden ship that some commander found on Maubene and then the news came of Lord VaCoupe’s new ship. They wanted to see her and petitioned Lord VaCoupe just before he left Alyona after the last High Council meetings,” replied Commander Garcia. He looked Raphael over with a shrewd and clever eye and said: “Apparently, Lord Demetrius failed to share knowledge of this development with you? You said you were ‘lord’ Kantor-VaCoupe? Are you Raphael DeAires Kantor?”
Raphael, in turn, studied the commander standing before him and replied, “Yes, Commander Garcia – I am the infamous Raphael DeAires Kantor – only now, I’m a VaCoupe and a lord, and I have a commander’s rank in the Command. I’m here on a special project for Lord VaCoupe.”
“A lord? You’re young to be a lord, sir,” replied Commander Garcia, still pressing Raphael.
“It’s an inherited title, Commander, one I just received as my blood father and elder brother are no longer alive,” replied Raphael. “However, sir, I really don’t have to give you my life’s history while standing outside my family’s own house.” He gave an abrupt nod of his head to the commander and left, going over to stand next to Lord Demetrius. With a slight edge of irritation in his voice, he inquired, “What is going on here, Father?”
“Oh, Raphael – this is Head Commander Strabo Diaz, he is in charge of the shipbuilding efforts in Elexa,” replied Lord Demetrius, indicating with a wave of his hand the giant standing next to him. “I was contacted by one of his officers, letting me know these gentlemen are interested in hearing about our new family business. They are really interested in looking over my new ship, The Golden Sparrow, as being representative of what is possible with sentient ships. Could you briefly demonstrate to the men some of her responses to your mental commands, Raphael?”
“Yes, we would like to see what she can do!” boomed a huge bass voice from the giant’s chest as he continued the introductions, “Like your father just said, I am Strabo Diaz, and you have my son counted among your Eagles, young Raphael! And I met you briefly years ago in Elexa when you were watching some ships getting built at night.”
“Sorry, sir; I don’t recall such a meeting, commander,” Raphael had to look up at the giant standing next to Lord VaCoupe. He regarded him for a moment and could see a similarity between the white blonde barrel-chested giant and his tall son, Felipe. Then, Raphael heard a gasp behind him as the Eagle in question saw his father.
“Father, what are you doing here, sir?” asked a strong tenor voice from behind Raphael. He turned and saw the tall white blonde Ashkerian Eagle approaching the little group.
His father laughed and pointed at the golden ship resting in the field, “We’re here to see her and to see what else Commander Raphael has to add regarding his discoveries in Jolf!”
“Raphael?” Lord Demetrius gave a meaningful glance towards the silent ship. Raphael sighed as he did not enjoy showing off in front of strangers – it usually ended badly for him, but he acquiesced to his father’s instructions. First, he instructed all the men examining the ship to move a safe distance away. Then, he went and stood closer to the ship to make it more obvious what he was doing. He closed his eyes and sent a command. The ship’s engines started, the doors closed, and the ship levitated above the field and remained there for a few moments. Then, he opened his eyes, sent another mental command and the ship responded instantly by setting down upon the field, opening her doors and letting down the steps. Again, he sent a mental command. The ship retracted the steps, closed the doors and the engines turned off.
Strabo Diaz came up beside Raphael, regarding the young commander with a shrewd blue eye and asked: “How are you controlling the ship, young Raphael?”
“With my mind, Commander Diaz, I send it mental commands and she responds instantly, which is, incidentally how you also fly her, sir,” replied Raphael. “Try it yourself, sir.”
The Ashkerian commander gave Raphael a shrewd glance and replied, “She’s only set to respond to you and your father, isn’t she?”
Raphael gave the Ashkerian commander a wry smile in response, “Yes, sir.”
“And how can you, a young Pleiadian, command such a vessel?” inquired the Ashkerian commander.
“Because I designed her, built her, programmed her, and left her in the outpost close to where Jolf is now located, sir,” replied Raphael.
The Ashkerian regarded Raphael with astonishment, searching his face for any indications he was lying and then stroked his closely shaved face in wonder. He asked, “How?”
“Commander Strabo – It’s a long story, but I will give you a shortened version: I happen to be the reincarnation of Lord Rigo, formerly a king of the Feline people who built this ship and many others much larger. We intentionally left this ship and other smaller ones as examples of what a sentient ship could be, so the next people who arrived and inhabited these planets would have a failsafe defense against the darkness that followed us from another quadrant of creation… sir,” replied Raphael.
The commander’s intelligent eyes regarded Raphael closely, then Diaz turned back to Lord VaCoupe, “Is what this young man is saying true, my lord?”
“Every word, Commander Strabo – Raphael is here now for a specific purpose, to gift the Pleiadian people with ships that originated from a people who were by far more technologically advanced than our current level. In a day or so, Raphael and I will personally give some of your men a brief tour of the facilities where this and other ships and other discoveries have been made. Raphael is the ‘key’ to the facility. Without his permission, no one can enter the place. I wouldn’t advise attempting to enter the place by force. Who knows what kind of defensive devices the ancient Felines put in place to prevent such an occurrence?” replied Lord Demetrius.
“This is quite an astonishing story, Lord Demetrius – I’m eager to see what else your son can show us,” said Commander Diaz.
“Well, let us go inside the house, so our staff can provide your men with some refreshments while the rest of us change out of our travel clothes and get more comfortable. After our trip, Raphael probably wants to rejoin his mate, Lady Julia, and see that his young son is bathed and put down for a nap,” replied Lord VaCoupe, returning to immediate and practical considerations.
Raphael felt momentarily relieved. He saluted the visiting commander, bowed to his father, and went over to where Julia was waiting with Sukio. The Feline Eagle was holding Jychondria and grinning as the young boy was busy tugging on his short mane. “Let’s go inside, Julia, Sukio – I want to see Connie bathed and put down for a short nap. Father has taken charge of entertaining these ‘visitors’ for the time being while we are given a chance to rest from the long trip and change our clothes. I, for one, would like to get out of this uniform!”
A few hours later, Raphael rejoined Lord Demetrius and his Command visitors in the family room. The men were seated at the long dining table and listening to Adario who was sharing some of the blueprints he had been studying during the Alyona visit. Master Nathan was adding some of the insights he had gained while meditating on the seed crystals found in the outpost. Most of the men were listening very intently which surprised Raphael – he was accustomed to having negative reactions to much of what he had presented in the past. There didn’t seem to be the same degree of skepticism present in this audience. Perhaps it was because of that sweet golden ship sitting outside the garden walls…
Lord VaCoupe greeted his son’s appearance and introduced him to the men: “Men, this is my son, Lord Raphael Kantor-VaCoupe, who is the one who brought the ship outside to our awareness by his discoveries in an ancient outpost near the town of Jolf on this continent. As it so happened, Raphael discovered he was also the reincarnation of the Feline leader who originally helped his people to build the outpost and was the co-founder of a giant fleet of starships. Those ancient people long departed these shores, but left these seeds for us to find, that we can now take and use to assist in the creation of an entirely new type of craft, a sentient ship, capable of astounding feats, and able to travel great distances with ease and great speed. While this may sound astounding to you engineers, being all highly trained practical men, this young man contains within his head all the designs of that same Starfleet, some of which plans you have seen passed around today in the form of blueprints.”
A rangy-looking, lean engineer with blue-black hair gave a guffaw of derision in response to Lord VaCoupe’s statement. Commander Diaz gave the individual a quelling look, but Raphael just said quietly: “Observe, men.” Then, he proceeded to send a telepathic vision of dozens of ships, ranging from private passenger vessels to battleships, motherships, and heavy freighters. From the astonished looks upon most of the men present, he knew the message had been received. He ended the barrage with a quiet comment: “And that is only a partial display of what our craft looked like. They were all capable of creating their own portals and moving swiftly between star systems and constellations. The craft sitting outside, The Golden Sparrow, made the flight to Alyona in three hours. And she was not traveling at maximum speed.”
“Three hours!” exclaimed another man, “That’s faster than our Saber fighters can manage!”
Lord Demetrius nodded, “Yes, three hours – it was astounding especially when I’ve made the long trip month after month for centuries! Well, men, I can say it felt more like I was commuting to Elexa from here! This technology that my son has discovered and is in the process of unlocking for us is beyond anything we could possibly create within the next five hundred years or longer.”
“Amazing, Lord VaCoupe…this will be quite a step forward for our technology once this information is translated into workable models for our engineers, ship designers, and technicians to use in building ships we can use on the line,” replied Commander Diaz. “There’s one problem, sir, where are we going to obtain the needed raw materials to recreate that amazing golden sheathing on the new ships?”
“And how do you make the ships sentient?” asked another man in a blue uniform of a ship designer.
“One question at a time, men! Commander Diaz, some of the seed crystals we found have the locations of the needed raw materials. The ancient mines are presently located in Pleiadian territory. Second question — how do you make the ships sentient? When the basic framework is built, the Mother crystal extends her consciousness and grows into the ship, the wiring, everything. Just how that happens I don’t know, but anyone who knows crystals realizes they are fully sentient. They know what to do,” replied Raphael. “I am working with two Crystal Masters who will assist in helping your shipbuilders to know when to activate the crystals.”
Master Beteros was standing on his chair to help all the visitors to see him, “What Lord Raphael is saying is quite possible. The great Mother Crystals we grow, and train are highly sentient, loving beings. They will be able to ‘grow’ into the very fabric of the ship granting it unprecedented sentience. It may be that the ships of the future will be able to appear to disappear in an instant as they create and go through their own interdimensional portals.”
“This is all quite amazing and exciting, isn’t it, men?” Commander Diaz’ bass voice boomed out across the room startling some of the kitchen staff who were in the process of bringing out refreshments for the visitors. “When do we get to see the outpost, Lord VaCoupe?”
Lord Demetrius looked at Raphael who just shrugged in response. “How about taking some of the officers the day after tomorrow; while I have a larger ship, we can’t take more than twenty passengers at a time. I need to return Raphael’s party to Jolf where they are currently stationed right now, which I’ll do tomorrow. Then, the following day, the rest of you gentlemen can travel to Jolf. When we arrive, we’ll try to gather up enough viscars to take you in small groups to various portions of the outpost. Does that sound like a good plan, Commander Diaz?”
“Excellent, my lord! I guess my men and I will be accepting your family’s hospitality for a couple of days. Is there an inn that can put us up in Jolf?” replied Strabo Diaz, beaming. He could barely contain his excitement. “Are you going to take us to Jolf in that beautiful ship, my lord?”
“Of course, Commander Diaz; that way you will be able to feel the ship’s ability to respond to our commands, which is beyond what our current models are capable of doing,” said Lord Demetrius. “And now, gentlemen, here are some refreshments – it looks like tea, cookies, and some fruit puddings! Enjoy yourself while I avail myself some time to communicate to the owner of the inn in Jolf that should be able to accommodate your party. Or if you want, we can fly you all back to Elexa. It only takes a few minutes in one of the golden ships!”
Lord Mathdis stood up from where he was sitting towards the end of the table, “I’ll accompany you, Demetrius, to your office. I need to inform Aiden to prepare for his guests. It is a good thing he and Brunella have arrived home from their honeymoon! This will be their first big event since their mating day.”
Raphael left the table and went to find a quiet spot in the audience chamber beside one of the deep-set windows. It was raining outside. The rainy season was ending soon and transitioning into hot dry summer weather. He would be glad to get back to Jolf to continue the work there. However, it appeared as if he was now going to have to play tour leader for a portion of the Elexa engineering staff. Still, this impromptu meeting could prove to be a major step towards their project getting the needed recognition from the Command. The men seemed to be impressed with the impromptu presentation.
Lantrill and Sukio wandered out into the audience hall and joined Raphael, seating themselves on some of the colorful pillows that were provided. Lantrill remarked: “Well, that was interesting – the engineering fellows seemed to be quite excited about the prospect of obtaining this new technology.”
“They would be– it’s like boys with toys, bigger, newer, and better,” replied Raphael somewhat sarcastically. “However, they are going to find there is a bit of ground to cover before they even get the raw materials to create one of these ships. The planets where the ancient mines are located are close to the edge of our space and therefore it will be quite dangerous for the miners. A fleet of battleships will have to be placed there to protect their efforts to extract the needed raw materials without anyone getting killed or kidnapped.”
“Ah – there’s always a catch to things,” replied Lantrill, soberly. He glanced out the window behind Raphael, “Looks like the rain is beginning to stop. Do you want to take a turn around the garden? It looks like it will be a while until you get back here to work with your favorite herbs and flowers, Rafe.”
“That sounds great,” exclaimed Raphael. “It has been a while since I last checked the old sage bush. It is probably in need of some pruning after all this rain!”
Just as the men stood up and starting to walk towards the atrium door, Adario and Roméo joined up with them. Adario laughed, “I remembered Raphael likes to go outside into the garden when he’s stressed, usually around a crowd of strangers like we have in the family room, so I brought along Roméo, our newest recruit. Perhaps now is a suitable time to fill him in on the story of just how you discovered the outpost and your resulting transformation, Raphael.”
“Ah, it’s a long story that took place over about 18 months, Roméo, but I’ll start once we get outside,” replied Raphael.
The men paused as they came out onto the portico. Lantrill lifted his head and sniffed the air, and giving short weather report, he announced: “No more rain tonight – we can stay outside for a while.”
“Good – come on, there are some nice benches by that old cypress tree,” suggested Raphael. When the men settled onto their seats, Raphael began the story of his gradual metamorphosis which culminated in the physical changes that all could witness by just looking at him. He explained how the changes in his DNA percolated down through his energetic bodies, mental, emotional, and finally into his physical body, resulting in his transformation in him now having a paler complexion, white-blonde hair, and his extraordinary blue-green eyes. Roméo was especially interested to hear his eldest brother’s reactions as Raphael underwent the difficult transformation while three personalities were vying for control over his physical body.
“Are you saying Esturias got very upset when it was apparent you were undergoing a profound transformation?” asked Roméo.
“Sadly, yes, brother – he was quite irritated when suddenly I became the center of attention and especially when I established that I was, indeed, the one in control of the outpost – at least for the time being. Perhaps there is something between Esturias and me that needs to be healed, perhaps stemming from our life together as Feline brothers. I don’t know what it might be right now. Besides, Esturias is where he needs to be, for now, getting properly mentored by Commander Adrigus,” replied Raphael.
“Well, that is quite a story, Raphael. I appreciate you taking the time to explain what happened to you. Imagine remembering you are the reincarnation of an ancient king of an entire star-faring people! What story to tell your grandchildren!” said Roméo. He paused, looking thoughtful, “I wonder where I will live? I would like to have Astrig there, with me in Jolf.”
“I understand the need to have your mate nearby. How these bachelors here do without having a mate around I just don’t know,” replied Raphael. “Having my Julia and now little Connie have aided in keeping me grounded and sane through all the rapid changes and challenges I’ve been faced with, especially recently. I would imagine Lord Mathdis would be agreeable to either put you up in his great house or provide you with a small residence. We have a large group in our house which is located near the Lord Mathdis’ house and Aiden’s inn.”
“Yes, you and your Eagles!” snorted Roméo. “I would imagine that was one thing Esturias took issue with brother.”
“Not really, Roméo,” replied Raphael. “They’re not ‘my’ Eagles; they were originally assigned to guard me by Lord Demetrius, who apparently feels I need the extra protection right now. And considering how much rests on me to see this new fleet begin to take shape, I would have to humbly agree with him. I’ve had Eagles with me for the most part ever since just after I was rescued as a boy And Lantrill, here, was one of my rescuers.”
“Was he now? So, Lantrill, what was Raphael like when he was a boy – about 14 years old, was it? I only met him recently during the last Howling,” asked Roméo.
“Well, when we first took him aboard our ship, he was in profound shock and bleeding from several wounds taken during his ordeal. After that, he was placed in the Sick Bay at Spaceport on Morova near PoLiafee. My cousin Racquer (who is dead now) and I volunteered to escort Ezekiel and Raphael to Alyona when the Morovian High Council refused to handle his case. Raphael was quiet and polite, very self-contained, and intelligent. He made no complaints and in the face of all the uncertainties that lay before him, recuperating from wounds, just orphaned twice, and now without a home to return to, I thought he was very brave. Lord VaCoupe took to the lad immediately upon hearing his detailed description of his 10-year ordeal. I would be proud to have a son like him,” replied Lantrill. “And more recently, I learned I was one of Raphael’s brothers when he was Lord Rigo, as was Captain Sukio. I am honored to be considered a friend and part of his extended family, Roméo.”
“Wow, Lantrill, that’s the longest speech I’ve ever heard you make in all the years I’ve known you!” exclaimed Raphael, lightly punching Lantrill’s rather solid shoulder in jest. The dignified commander just looked down at him with his beautiful golden eyes and gave his friend a long feline blink in return.
“Ah, here you all are!” A light tenor voice rang out across the garden as Commander Tazo approached the small gathering. “What’s going on? Are you trying to protect Raphael from all the commanders inside?”
“No, I’m just trying to get acquainted with my brother, Roméo. I was recounting a bit of how I underwent this transformation which resulted in my looking more Ashkerian than naught,” replied Raphael with a grin. “Now I look more like Delos, except I still have a broader build.”
“Now, who was Rigo? You said you would tell me a little about this ancient Feline king,” said Roméo.
Raphael looked around at his companions, all men loyal to him apart from Roméo, who he was just getting to know. At first, when he had met the man, he had not been impressed, but he now knew how to reserve judgment until a man had shown through his actions who and what he truly was within his being. He decided to, for the time being, give a short rendition of the story for Roméo. If Roméo proved true and valuable to the project, while working with Raphael, he would eventually learn more of Rigo’s qualities, as they were Raphael’s own.
He replied: “When I first stepped into the outpost, I realized almost immediately I could read the ancient script on the walls and when listening to the video that played, I could understand the spoken language of the Feline people,” said Raphael, recounting his dreams and experiences within the outpost. “At night when I slept, I had lucid dreams of being a leader, in charge of putting together the outpost, leaving clues on how to build a mighty fleet, left behind for a yet unknown people whom I knew would include many of those I loved. As Rigo, I was preparing for a future storm that would come upon a people in the shape of great darkness, an evil that was driven from the higher worlds into this one. I chose to incarnate into the Feline race for this specific purpose and my father, King Lyonille, fully embraced my cause and had the outpost constructed and left behind. I only incarnated as a Feline once as I was able to complete my purpose during that long life. And now in this one, I have encountered members of my ancient family reincarnated in the form of Lord Lyonell’s family and once again, I found myself fully accepted as one of their own when Lord Lyonell chose to mentor and protect me as a young man on board The Golden Lion.”
“You mean you began to remember who you had been thousands of years ago?” said Roméo in a wondering tone. “It sounds like you were experiencing a waking dream.”
“It often felt like that, brother,” replied Raphael. “When I walked through the complex, I could read the fire letters left upon the walls; activate and open hidden doors, activate the control consoles that allowed for entry into all points of the complex. And I began to realize the Mother Crystal of this planet had downloaded into my mind the entirety of what the ancients had downloaded into her for safekeeping. I could sit and see the images, even flip through the ‘pages’ to find just the kind of ship I wanted to design to present to our father. Every megabyte of data contained within the seed crystals was also stored within my own living mind. I had, in effect, become a living crystal. And that, my dear brother, is one reason why the Eagles are necessary to keep me safe. If I were to be captured, all this data would be compromised or even lost.”
“Oh…that is a huge responsibility, Raphael,” replied Roméo. “I’m curious, where do I come in? I know that through adoption I am now your official brother, but what part do I play in this great drama of the ages?”
“You have a clever, trained, and highly educated mind, brother,” said Raphael. “And I have little doubt that you will begin to discover more of your own purpose on your own, especially once you enter the outpost for the first time. It has been long my opinion that you are another ‘key’ to the future of our people, although just how that will play out is not presently mine to know or share if I do know it.”
“You speak in paradoxes, Raphael,” laughed Roméo.
Raphael regarded his dark-haired brother and added: “And someday you will write in riddles and leave your mark upon the consciousness of humanity.”
“A prophecy; are you telling me I will be a prophet?” asked Roméo.
“You will be many things to many people, Roméo. What’s more, that will no longer be your name. I cannot say any more lest I inflict my own will on your future,” replied Raphael.
Roméo looked around at the interesting assortment of men standing there, Felines, an Ashkerian, and Pleiadians, “We are an interesting lot!”
“Indeed, we are, brother; we are the future of the Pleiades…and other worlds we yet do not know,” replied Raphael rather cryptically. He smiled and announced, “Well, of many things I am also a father and a mate. I think I’ll go in and find Julia and Jychondria before dinner. See you then, everyone!”
Roméo stared as Raphael sauntered towards the great entrance door and disappeared into the house. He glanced over at Lantrill who shrugged and said: “Life with Raphael is always interesting and challenging. Just wait until you see him in action in the outpost…”
The next day, Lord VaCoupe flew all of Raphael’s party and its newest member, Roméo VaCoupe, to Jolf and left them off there. Lord Mathdis and Lady Anna were among the party, as well, and graciously said their good-byes to their benefactor. Lady Anna blushed when Lord VaCoupe replied, “I’ll be here tomorrow – to introduce our Command friends to the outpost…”
Lord VaCoupe was looking at Lady Anna when he announced his intention on remaining at least a week in Jolf along with his sons. Lord Mathdis smiled and invited Lord VaCoupe and Roméo to stay at his own house, while the Command personnel was temporarily housed in Aiden’s inn. Lord VaCoupe graciously accepted and told Raphael to prepare some viscars to take the excess personnel to the outpost, along with some refreshments as he intended to make sure the Command representatives were well familiarized with the extent of the facility and what they were in the process of discovering there. He was quite aware Raphael needed more manpower simply to move the blueprints and other artifacts to a safe place where Command designers and engineers could begin to pore over the vast amount of material. He also knew it was necessary to pace the activities as Raphael could not be everywhere. Others would have to step up and take responsibility for guiding some of the visitors to various areas within the facility, even those which had been, yet, unvisited even by Raphael.
For his part, Raphael was happy to be back in Jolf. The mild climate agreed with him, with the sweet and spicy scents of flowers and herbs wafting through the warm enclosed gardens, with the lulling sound of fountains and the splash of fish in shady pools. He and Julia visited the inn and greeted the newly mated couple, Aiden, and Brunella, who were glowing with their new-found love.
Warning Aiden of the coming onslaught of new visitors and the planned outings to the old outpost, he grinned at the frequent loving glances passing between the two new mates. He said: “Could you have some baskets prepared to take out to the outpost for our guests? Lord VaCoupe is determined to make an impression of these commanders from Elexa, as they will be, primarily, the ones involved in taking the blueprints we find and reconfiguring the drawings to suit our Pleiadian tastes and needs. There are about fifteen men included in the party. My father will be staying with Lord Mathdis. Some of the men can bunk together. They’re in the Command and used to sharing tight quarters and they all have hearty appetites. Their commander is a giant, probably with an appetite to match the size of his body!”
Aiden laughed at the description of Commander Strabo Diaz, especially when he learned that Felipe was his son among the Eagles. Aiden looked refreshed and well-rested after his brief vacation, so Raphael teased him gently: “It looks like you had plenty of rest during your stay at the lake planet. Did you enjoy your stay there?”
Aiden blushed and said: “Yes, we did. We even went swimming in the lake! Brunella loved it and I love her!”
Raphael was grinning, remembering the tender first moments of his and Julia’s relationship. “We loved it there, too. I would imagine Julia will find time to come over for a visit, perhaps to help you and Brunella prepare tomorrow’s fare. It’s good to see both of you happy and contented!”
That evening Lord Mathdis held a dinner meeting with Raphael, Lord VaCoupe, Tazo, Roméo, Adario, Lantrill, Sukio, and Commander Monteras, to plan out the next couple of days when the visitors would be staying in Jolf and visiting the outpost. All three of the small golden ships, as well as some viscars, would be used to ferry people back and forth to town. They probably could have utilized the larger golden ship but felt it would attract too much attention if they were to do so. The other Eagles, Gareth, Paul, and Felipe would oversee the viscars, while Lantrill, Sukio, and Raphael would fly the golden ships. Lord VaCoupe would be accompanying Commander Strabo Diaz around the facility along with Raphael as he wanted the commander to see what Raphael could do as well as what was being discovered inside the outpost.
The next morning, Lord VaCoupe and Raphael flew back to Medina to pick up their command guests. They were greeted by an ebullient Commander Strabo who was excited about what they were going to see in the ancient outpost. The men trooped on board the sleek Golden Sparrow. For this trip, Raphael was piloting to allow his father an opportunity to talk about the ship and some of what the men would be seeing soon. Even Raphael was thrilled at the sheer power exhibited by the small vessel at take-off. The ship levitated gently above the towers of Medina, with the large complex of the Shemont displayed below, as well as the many walled gardens and family compounds of the ancient village. Then, the ship leveled out and began its journey across the vast stretch of desert lands that lay between Medina and the sea. When they reached the site, Raphael had the ship swoop the outpost, and smiled as he heard the gasps from the engineers and designers as they began to comprehend the size of the complex below them, as defined by the presence of the tall towers on the sea’s edge. Then he directed the ship to head towards Jolf and its spaceport where he landed.
Before their arrival in Jolf, Lord VaCoupe recounted the incident of the first golden ship and its unexpected landing in the middle of the town square of Jolf, with the resulting invasion of command forces led by Commander Kadish. At the end of the story, Lord VaCoupe looked very stern and said: “Men, I do not wish a repeat of that performance by any of our command personnel. Be respectful of the citizens of Jolf. They have been extremely generous in letting Raphael and his people stay among them. And keep the location and what you’re about to see private to yourselves. Remember we’re in a war-setting and do not want unnecessary and vital information to find its way into the hands of our enemies. Do I make myself clear, men?”
“Yes, sir!” came the deafening reply from the men. Like Commander Strabo, they were eager to see what the outpost would reveal and to see Commander Raphael at work. The men were quite mystified by what Raphael had told them, but they had quietly observed his ease with piloting the ship with his mind.
The visitors were allowed to drop their gear in their assigned rooms, eat a quick bite of refreshments prepared by Aiden and then they divided into three groups between the three golden ships. Not all the visitors would be able to see the outpost on the first day; there weren’t enough pilots or golden ships to ferry them out there. Raphael wasn’t eager to perform for more strangers, but he knew this was part of building a family business – displaying the wares. Raphael put Lord VaCoupe, Roméo and Commander Strabo in his little ship, along with one other officer, Specialty Commander Garcia. Likewise, Lantrill and Sukio carried about four of the command staff each. Raphael’s ship led out to the outpost, skirting above the rugged shoreline until reaching the first tower, where he landed the craft on the thick green turf. There, he had all the men group up while he demonstrated his command over the facility.
He announced his intentions to open the outpost: “Watch, men, while I ‘unlock’ the outpost. You’ll see doors suddenly appear in each of the towers. Lantrill will take his passengers to the second tower and Sukio, to the third tower. We have not yet entered the fourth tower and the rooms it controls; that will come later after this visit. I am going to take Commander Strabo to the head control tower and to the various facilities we have located within that area of the outpost. Now, keep your hands to yourselves, do not touch anything without permission and do not linger.”
Raphael shut his eyes, tapped his bracelet, and sent a silent command to the facility. He heard a sharp intake of breath from some men watching as they observed the entrance doors suddenly appear in the towers, the ones they could see from where they were standing. He opened his eyes and looked around; some of the men closest to him were staring at him. He smiled and announced the next step: “Okay, men follow your pilots into the three towers. Let your guide know if you find anything interesting so he can bring it back and/or report your findings to me. I hope you enjoy your tour!”
“The towers are impressive. How was it no one recognized this place, Lord Raphael?” asked Commander Strabo.
Raphael gave the Ashkerian Commander a benign smile and replied: “Sir, all the towers used to be below the surface. It was simply a hummocky meadow innocent of any buildings. I could have the towers retract underground once again with a simple command.”
The Ashkerian giant halted a moment, looked at the six-story tower some of his men were about to enter and then back at Raphael. He asked: “Is there any way out of the tower if it retracts?”
“None that we have detected yet, sir,” replied Raphael. Then he gave the commander a grim smile, “I’ve been away for a very long time and don’t yet remember all of the details…”
“Now, let me concentrate,” said Raphael as the five men paused before the shortest tower. Raphael tapped his bracelet and then waved his hand across the door. Obligingly it opened. Raphael snapped an order: “Don’t linger in the doorway; the doors tend to shut on their own. We’ll first go to the fourth floor to the control room. Follow me!”
Raphael felt the thuds of the Ashkerian commander’s large feet as he closely followed him up the steep staircase. Lord VaCoupe, Roméo, and Specialty Commander Garcia climbed a little slower. Finally, they all reached the fourth floor. Raphael immediately sat down in front of the console and with a quick glance towards Commander Diaz and his brother Roméo, he started to activate the tower controls. He waved his hand across the surface, allowing the colored holographs to appear and starting explaining what he was doing: “Commander, by activating the colored holographs, I can access a video of any room within this section of the facility. Apparently, the blue blocks are for the Research and Development labs. We haven’t found any yet in this section of the outpost. I’m going to check today to see if there are any and what might be contained within them. Look up above my head at the screen.”
“What screen – oh, well, I’ll be!” The Ashkerian commander stared as the large screen flickered on. The scene changed to a large room containing long tables and banks of files, probably where more blueprints were stored.
“So, there is a lab in this area. I’ll have to look at the diagram on the first floor to determine just where it is located,” said Raphael.
“What do some of these other colors symbolize?” inquired the Commander respectfully. “Well, I know red signifies living quarters; green is for the hangars – each section of the facility seems to have at least three hangars associated with it,” replied Raphael. He moved his hands across some of the other blocks and brought up visuals of the corresponding rooms. The Ashkerian commander sighed when he saw Rigo’s ship sitting quietly in its hangar. Without looking up, Raphael continued his lecture: “Orange is for the libraries and storage facilities, where we might even find components of some of the ships. In the main console room downstairs, yellow signifies the tomb of my ancient father, which is located further underground. There were other smaller chapels scattered around the facility for meditation – the Felines are a very spiritual and psychically talented race. There are some other colors which I haven’t had an opportunity to determine to what kind of room they correspond.”
“Well, Lord VaCoupe – your son is truly knowledgeable, impressive. Can we see the diagram of the facility downstairs, on the first floor, you said?” said the Ashkerian commander.
“Certainly, Commander – I’ll lead the way,” replied Lord Demetrius. The two men moved off and down the stairs, leaving Raphael to deactivate the console and corresponding screen. Roméo and Specialty Commander Garcia politely waited until he was done and then followed Raphael downstairs as well. He nodded to them and asked Roméo, “Are you enjoying the tour, brother?” His older brother nodded and then started down the steps himself behind Raphael.
When he reached the first floor, Raphael found the two older commanders discussing him and the outpost while looking at the diagram of the outpost, as well as the map of Medina, marking out the location, without any indication there were other centers of human occupation during the Feline’s stay on this planet. Commander Diaz was also interested in the star chart which laid out most of the solar systems included within Pleiadian domination at present. The Ashkerian commander turned when he sensed Raphael at the door and said: “The detail on this star chart is especially impressive, Lord Raphael. Your people were very meticulous in their studies.”
“Yes, we were a long-lived species and took great pride in studying the stars and making mathematical calculations and then visiting the same stars to verify our statistics,” replied Raphael. “We also worked with the elementals of each planet to determine where the best places for occupation were located. The climate of this planet was vastly different when our people lived here.”
“How so, Lord Raphael?” asked Commander Diaz.
“It was more humid and had thick vegetation over most of the planet. I’m not sure when the desertification set in, but it was after our time,” replied Raphael. “You are aware that the human collective of any planet determines what kind of climate the planet will have?”
“Oh, I had not considered that fact, Lord Raphael,” replied Commander Diaz. “You know, you’re an interesting fellow – even if you look like an Ashkerian!”
Raphael gave the commander a bland smile in return and then said, “Do you know why I look like an Ashkerian, Commander Diaz?”
The Ashkerian commander looked at Raphael with some confusion and replied, “You mean you weren’t born this way, Lord Raphael?”
“No, sir – I was born with curly golden blonde hair, blue eyes, and a golden tanned complexion – the hair was a gift from my lovely mother. My brother, Ezekiel, was also a golden blonde,” replied Raphael. “No, sir – I am also the reincarnation of Lord Delos, the Ashkerian Head Commander for nearly three hundred years.”
“Oh – I’ve heard of Lord Delos. Wasn’t he the commander who designed, built, and commanded the Ashkerian Fleet? He was a genius in tactical warfare!” exclaimed Commander Diaz, looking at Raphael with increased respect. “Sir, then during this transformation you underwent you took on the physical characteristics of two of your former incarnations. Pardon me, my lord, but you don’t look like any of your Feline companions!”
“Commander Diaz – that was uncalled for!” retorted Lord VaCoupe. “Raphael inherited the mental capacity of Lord Rigo, the Feline leader who built the very structure you are presently standing within, sir.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you or your son, Lord VaCoupe,” replied Commander Diaz apologetically.
“One of my close companions was curious about the same thing, Commander,” said Raphael calmly. “How I explained it was that I am no longer of the Feline species and that incarnation was over six hundred thousand years ago, whereas Lord Delos lived within the last century. My etheric blueprint and DNA coding was changed during my transformational process, hence the changes in my outer appearance.”
“That is quite a story, Lord Raphael!” said Commander Diaz and then patted Raphael gently on his shoulder.
“Okay, Commander, enough of these diagrams and maps; let’s go downstairs and see the hangar that holds Rigo’s ship, the infamous golden ship that landed in Elexa without notice and caused a diplomatic incident!” Raphael glanced up at the Ashkerian’s pale features. The man winked back at him. He nodded and then turned and left the room, plunging down the steps. The door at the bottom of the stairwell opened, sliding quietly aside to allow passage into the corridor. “This way, gentlemen, to the left is the hangar!”
As the overhead lights came on within the hangar, Raphael overhead the Ashkerian commander whistle, “Lord VaCoupe – she looks like a miniature version of your beautiful Sparrow!”
“Yes, Commander – this is the first ship my son found here and the one he flew to Elexa, which is why you are here now,” replied Lord VaCoupe, “since, obviously, the news got around to the shipyards where you and your men are stationed.”
“Indeed, I and my men just couldn’t pass up learning more about these fabulous ships your son has discovered. The sheer magnitude of the discoveries being made here boggles the mind, my lord,” replied the giant Commander. “Now, what else can you show us here today, Lord Raphael?”
Raphael just grinned back and replied, “First, I would like to locate that lab, Commander. Let’s leave Rigo’s ship here and go check out in the corridor. We haven’t explored the entire length of this corridor outside the hangar yet.”
The small group followed Raphael out into the corridor. As he walked, he periodically waved his hand along the wall activating the light codes. He peered at them and then saw what he is looking for, a small blue block. “Here it is, men – let me see if I can find the door!”
Raphael tapped his bracelet and then waved his hand, then stepped back a bit when a door suddenly appeared in the wall in front of where he was standing. Commander Garcia gasped in surprise as it appeared. The Ashkerian Commander looked at the officer with some exasperation, “Quiet, Garcia! Can’t you see the man is trying to concentrate.”
“Aye, sir – it’s just, it’s like magic, sir!” replied Specialty Commander Garcia.
“No, Commander Garcia, it’s merely command over the elements which make up the door,” explained Raphael, patiently. “The entire facility is sentient like our ships and programmed to respond to my frequency. It’s simple quantum physics, commander; my brother Roméo could explain it better than I.”
“You’re doing quite well, Lord Raphael,” replied Commander Diaz, glancing at his fellow officer with a quelling look. “Now what?”
“This, Commander,” said Raphael, as he made a brief sign in front of the door, which promptly slipped aside with a slight whisper. Raphael stepped inside and was gratified to see another laboratory revealed, filled with long tables and all kinds of equipment. It looked like a chemistry lab. Resting on one of the tables were some chunks of raw materials. Raphael knew at once he had found the raw material with which to make the sheathing for the golden ships. He took up a chunk of the material and held it out for examination to Commander Diaz and his father. “Here is something to take to your metallurgical labs. Find the exact chemical components of this material and you will be on your way to discovering how to recreate the golden sheathing for the new sentient ships!”
“It doesn’t look like gold,” replied the Commander as he examined the dark chunk of rock.
“It isn’t, Commander, but you will blend this raw material with gold and crystalline substance to create the sheathing,” said Raphael. “It gives the gold incredible and lasting strength and resilience. The ship you flew in today is over six hundred thousand years old, sir. Just imagine what you could do with this seemingly rough raw material. Why it may be possible to even construct a mothership that is miles larger than any others we can currently conceive of, and our ships are already large. This is just one of the components – there are others, but your metallurgists and chemists can determine the exact materials required. We also have a sample of the finished material that I discovered in another lab.”
“This is incredible, my lords, just incredible!” exclaimed Commander Diaz in his booming bass voice. Raphael winced as the sound reverberated around the enclosed lab and gave a wane smile when the commander clapped him heartily on the shoulder. The commander continued, “Now, Lord Raphael, you’ll have to tell us just where to find the raw materials, right?”
“Yes, Commander – but you’re going to have to use Command resources to obtain the material as the planets in question are located near the edge of Pleiadian-controlled space. You will need a battleship fleet to protect your efforts to have this material mined there,” replied Raphael quietly after the din died down.
“Ah, there’s always a catch to things, isn’t there, my lord!” replied Commander Diaz in a slightly more subdued voice.
“Well, I will review the records (in my head) when I have a quiet moment to see if there are any more planets which contain this same material on them. The mines are ancient and may even be overgrown with vegetation. It will take some effort to relocate them even if you can approach the planets without being attacked by enemy ships,” said Raphael. “You might have your geology team do an extensive review on the data that is known about where certain minerals are found on our planets. And if the planet is populated, you will, of course, must negotiate with the inhabitants, to see if any mining is going to be allowed.”
“Ah, yes, the price in having independent planets under our federation – we have to negotiate an agreement each time we make a move,” replied Commander Diaz.
“Yes, Commander – which is why we are fighting this seemingly endless war,” said Lord VaCoupe. “We are people who value our freedom of choice and our ability to abide by the sacred laws of our Creator God!”
“Indeed, my lord, indeed – well, I’ll order our geology teams to get on this issue right away when I return to Elexa. Perhaps some of the masters and instructors at the University Ship would be willing to donate some of their time and perhaps some of their upper-level students to do the research?” replied Commander Diaz, thinking aloud about what he would be required to focus on next. “Meanwhile, while that problem is being worked out, I can see your team is going to require some manpower to shift all the existing blueprints out of this facility to another so we can begin to study and adapt the drawings to Pleiadian specifications.”
The commander’s voice trailed off into silence as he stood still, his face registering surprise as a sudden inspiration came to him. The large man spun around and practically shouting attempted to convey his new idea, “Of course, we need to use a secure facility and what facility is more secure than where these plans are already? My lord, could I borrow your talented son in this endeavor? I can see that this facility is where we’re going to have to work, which means we’re going to have to bring it back into operational order and provide security forces to protect the perimeter without looking too obvious to any ships passing overhead. How do the hangars work, my lord?”
The Ashkerian commander was on fire with ideas as he continued with a deluge of questions: “Did you mention there are existing living quarters located here within this facility? Would it be possible to reopen and restock them for the purpose of housing our research staff here for the time being to get started on our work. We can ferry security staff back and forth from Elexa. Does the facility have any other transport vessels available that we can use? Ah, my head is full of questions, but I can see young Lord Raphael is wilting under the barrage… have you ever served on the line, my lord?”
“Yes, Commander Diaz, I have served on the line, eight years under Lord Lyonell on The Golden Lion. And I served another six years on shore building up the Alyona Line Communications Center,” replied Raphael.
The Commander’s face suddenly registered his surprise and then realization as to whom he was talking to; he stared for a long moment at Raphael and blurted out: “Lord VaCoupe, this son of yours is the young fellow who got dragged off The Golden Lion, under your eldest son’s watch, right?”
Lord VaCoupe glanced over at Raphael as the young officer’s face went blank. His son did not enjoy being reminded of that painful passage in his past. Demetrius nodded and replied, “Yes, Esturias was the newly appointed top commander of The Golden Lion when my foster son was removed from her and taken into protective custody in Alyona.”
“The charges were dropped, weren’t they, my lord?” The commander was persistent, keeping a shrewd eye locked onto Raphael’s pale face.
“Yes, Commander; within two months the charges were dropped, and I was reinstated as a Line Communications Commander on special assignment for Lord VaCoupe, my foster father at the time,” replied Raphael.
“Wasn’t it you who discovered those things called satellites?” asked the commander.
“Yes, sir – I have the ability to ‘walk’ the Akash; a future self, told me of the satellites, the way the objects had arrived in our space, and the fact they were heavily armed and blocking our inter-ship communications,” replied Raphael.
The Commander swung around and this time clapped Lord VaCoupe’s shoulder as he announced, “My lord, let me commend you for adopting this boy and taking him under your wing. He’s a valuable resource I shouldn’t wonder. I would like to assign him to my personal staff as a consultant. He can continue to live here as I understand he presently has his mate and child living in Jolf, but I want him available to attend periodic meetings with my staff in Elexa and possibly on the University Ship. Is this possible, my lords?”
“Only with the understanding that this project will be primarily a family business and Raphael will have full control over this facility, Commander Diaz,” replied Lord VaCoupe. “Also, I would like Lord Raphael to receive a promotion of rank to Specialty Commander – Special Projects. He can report to you, but I will remain as his Head Commander – is that understood, Commander Diaz? Lord Raphael is an extremely important key to our future, and I do not want him railroaded by any limited thinking on the part of the Command structure.”
Commander Diaz’s experienced eyes shrewdly measured a certain degree of tension existing between father and son as the two men exchanged looks and said: “I see Lord Raphael is reluctant to stay within the confines of the Command protocol? I understand how a talented, powerful psychic like you have suffered at the hands of lesser men while on board ship, am I correct, my lord? Well, let me be the first to assure you, my lord, I have no intention of treating you like a tool. You will be given a promotion in rank simply in recognition of your ability to contribute to this effort. You will not be expected to take orders from ranking officers like me but will be periodically consulted as to what direction or insights you arrive at given your own unique talents and abilities. You will be given full rein to continue doing your own research into what will be needed for this family project to succeed and right now, you need us, the Command, to lend a hand or rather some manpower to get it started!”
“Can I have some time to think this over and discuss it with my mate, Father?” asked Raphael.
Lord VaCoupe looked from his son to Commander Diaz and replied: “… the Commander is correct in his immediate assessment of the situation. It is apparent from your own words this project is going to take some time to get off the ground, literally and figuratively. Having Command research staff here at the outpost will be a tremendous help and you will still have control over the facility – am I making myself clear, Commander – plus, you don’t have to live in Elexa which would separate you from your young family. This is a good compromise, son, allowing you to continue to do your own research along with the Crystal Masters while letting the research teams search out the most appropriate designs for a future fleet. And letting the geology teams do their research to find the raw materials for the sheathing of the new ships; there are a lot of considerations and steps to take that are well beyond the scope or experience level of any one person, son. It makes sense to enter this working relationship with this part of the Command, which will make it easier for you to work with commanders of higher rank when you finally bring a finished or near-finished ship to the attention of those who will eventually run her.”
Raphael still wanted time to consider his options, but he intuitively recognized the common-sense approach of the experienced Ashkerian commander. He nodded, “Yes, both of you are right – if I am considered a consultant and not expected to perform for the benefit of prospective clients. There is quite a lot of research here to undertake and I would like to get on with it, all the while continuing to live with and raise my family. I guess this time, you win, Father.”
“We all win, Raphael – especially our people. This project is the future of our people, at least a portion of it and you will be at the center of it, my dear son,” replied Lord VaCoupe as he stepped up and gave his adopted son a hug.
“Well, Father, do you want to continue looking around the facility or have we shown Commander Diaz enough for one day?” asked Raphael as he stepped away.
Lord VaCoupe looked around the vast laboratory and answered, “I think we’ll leave the sorting through of this material to the experts, son. Let’s go back to the hangar where Rigo’s ship is located and show the Commander how the hangar mechanism functions.”
“I would love to witness that aspect of this facility, my lord. The knowledge could prove useful in the future in case we decide to utilize some of the hangars for our own shuttlecraft – which would make it easier to keep this facility secured in the future,” replied Commander Diaz.
Despite his earlier reservations, Raphael was beginning to find the enthusiasm of the Ashkerian commander infectious. He smiled and replied: “I can see you and I will work well together, Commander. You are a practical man, well-trained, yet you have imagination and can visualize alternate ways of handling what already exists. It will be my pleasure to demonstrate the landing capabilities of the hangars within this facility. And with some adjustment to the settings, I don’t see a problem with allowing some smaller Command ships access to the various hangars. This would solve the issue of ferrying men back and forth to Elexa, especially the security staff and those scientists and researchers who are taking some time off from their duties.”
Raphael gestured with his arm, “Gentlemen, it’s time to return to the corridor and then to Rigo’s ship. That is the closest hangar and a very grand one for just one ship. Let me demonstrate the versatility of the landing platform there.”
The men left the laboratory and proceeded out into the corridor. Raphael pointed out the legend for ‘ships’ in the ancient Feline language etched on the wall before the door leading to the hangar. The door slipped aside, and the overhead lights gradually came on, dramatically revealing the sweet little ship inside. Raphael gestured for the Commander to come with him as he approached Rigo’s ship. As the commander stepped up to where Raphael was standing, he began to hear a soft humming. He turned to Raphael in wonder and said: “She’s responding to you already, my lord?”
Raphael nodded and flicked his wrist towards the ship while confessing: “Yes, commander; she is my ship. Of course, the gesture is completely unnecessary, Commander; I’m just doing it for your sake, making the process more dramatic and apparent to onlookers.” The doors opened, the steps unfolded, and the engines became perceptively louder. “And now, Commander, kindly sit down in the navigator’s seat; it will adjust accordingly to your size, although you are probably close to the same height and weight of the ancient Felines, sir.”
The commander sat down as instructed, and then Raphael also climbed in and sat down in the pilot’s seat. The steps retracted and the door shut. Even as this was happening, the landing platform began its launching maneuver as the hangar ceiling began to lift revealing the pinkish violet skies above. Commander Diaz looked around the inside of the little ship, observing all the instrumentation coming online. Raphael explained that each ship was attuned to the frequency of its primary pilot/owner and spoke to the pilot on a telepathic level. He didn’t have to do anything but think or visualize his intended destination. The little ship automatically calculated the route and executed the orders without much further input required from the pilot, unless there were adjustments, such as changes in the landing site.
The commander glanced at his companion and asked, “And where are we going today, my lord?”
“Why don’t we fly towards Jolf, then circle around back and give you another overview of the facility, Commander,” replied Raphael.
“How did you learn all of this, my lord? From my research into your background, you weren’t trained as a pilot during your brief career on the ships,” inquired Commander Diaz, politely.
“My cousin Adario Kadish explained it best – as Lord Delos, I knew how to fly every vessel within our command, from the smallest fighter to the great mothership, The Golden Lily,” replied Raphael with a patient smile. “Of course, this vessel and its sisters are vastly different than anything the present Ashkerian or Pleiadian fleets can claim. And, frankly, Commander, she is my ship. I designed her. We have an intuitive and telepathic bond. I command and she acts instantly. All these ships can be reprogrammed to allow a new pilot to be able to fly them, which is a matter of setting the individual’s frequency into the crystalline memory banks of the vessel. These smaller ships are meant to be personal transportation and were never meant to be used for troop carriers. Even Lord VaCoupe’s larger Golden Sparrow is meant for his personal use. I can fly it because she has my frequency recorded in her memory.”
The ship had, by this time, emerged completely from the landing bay and was now hovering over the platform. Raphael waved to the Eagles waiting near the tower and sent a telepathic message stating he was just taking the commander for a short spin. Then the ship ascended to a height of approximately 1,000 feet above the facility and began its flight towards Jolf. Within minutes, the tall towers of Jolf were sighted. Raphael guided the ship to make a high flyover and turned the ship back towards the facility. When they reached the outpost once again, he had the ship ascend to 2,000 feet above the facility so the commander could get see the positioning of each tower. The commander looked down and couldn’t see where the landing bay opening was located. Raphael glanced at him and answered his silent question: “Sir, the landing bay roof automatically closes every time a ship exits. It will begin its landing cycle once we come in for an approach. This ship can hover indefinitely as needed.”
The big commander grinned, “You read my thoughts, didn’t you, my lord!”
“Your concern was obvious, sir – as any experienced pilot will survey the ground below for a suitable landing site. Although the turf is hummocky, it has proved a useful landing material. And as I just stated, this ship can hover anywhere, at any height, even as close as one foot off the ground which is safe enough for most anyone to disembark,” replied Raphael with another grin. “Are you ready to go inside and gather up the rest of our small party, Commander?”
Commander Diaz nodded; accordingly, Raphael moved the ship into position and began the landing cycle. The Ashkerian commander made an “oh!” when the turf buckled up revealing the landing bay below. The little ship centered herself; then dropped down on the pad and descended gently down into the landing bay. When the pad reached floor level, the steps automatically unfolded, and the doors opened. The two men disembarked and greeted Lord VaCoupe, Roméo, and Specialty Commander Garcia. “Well, that was an informative little flight, Lord VaCoupe! I must say your son is an excellent and patient instructor – even if he isn’t a trained pilot this life, he has all the right instincts.”
Lord VaCoupe was relieved to see his sensitive son was getting along well with the boisterous Commander Diaz. It had been Commander Strom’s recommendation that he arrange to bring the Ashkerian shipbuilder to the outpost to see what there was to see. Strom knew the man from past association, from working together on various ships until Commander Diaz took a shore job, heading up the Research and Development Department of the Elexa Shipbuilding Yard. He said: “Perhaps we should gather up the rest of the men and have some refreshments and then head back to Jolf, Commander Diaz?”
“I want to tell you, Lord VaCoupe that I’ve enjoyed meeting your son, Lord Raphael, and seeing for myself just what he’s made up of and what he has begun to find in this outpost! It is amazing to have such a person among us who can hand us such a huge upgrade in our technology. Mind you, there is a lot of work before we get any of these new ships in the air, but now we have something to work with, a framework, and a brilliant young mind to give us the needed vision and direction. Thank you, sir, for this impromptu tour; I’ve really enjoyed it!” exclaimed Commander Diaz in his magnificent bellowing voice. “Now, how do we get out of here?”
“This way, Commander; we just retrace our steps to the tower and then exit via the tower door. I’ll send a telepathic message to Lantrill and Sukio to begin bringing their men back to where the golden ships are parked,” replied Raphael. He was pleased, too, even though he realized his father had set up this whole tour and meeting with the commander. He was aware Commander Diaz brought a great deal of organizational and networking skills to the table, needed to bring the whole operation to life. Issues he had been personally agonizing over now could be solved and he didn’t have to produce all the solutions. He knew, also, Commander Diaz would be a major advocate when it came to selling the Command on accepting the new line of sentient ships. He continued, “I think Lord Mathdis’ son Aiden has prepared some delicious items for all of us to enjoy before we head back to Jolf. Let’s enjoy some sunshine and fresh sea air and let everyone share their impressions of the outpost.”
“Sounds like a great idea, Lord Raphael,” replied Commander Diaz. “Lord VaCoupe, I really like your son; I think we will get along famously.“
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