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.I have no record of any Navy deliveries or planned visits and…well….”The confusion in her voice as she trailed off was enough to turn both heads in her direction, “I…well, I would swear that it sounded like Josey.”That was enough to get both heads out of the coil.“An Admiral call sign?” her father asked.Allea nodded and all three of them turned toward the open overhead door that faced the flight operations area.They walked a few meters from the building and scanned the sky.A few minutes later, Sam pointed, “There!”The thing that came out of the sky and settled to the ground at the far end of the apron was marked with standard Navy insignia and painted the current and correct two shades of gray and midnight blue, but it was definitely NOT a standard Navel vessel.“Dad, is that a…”“Panther D.” her father finished for her.“Or…at least…it used to be.Unless I miss my guess, that’s the personal shuttle of Admiral Arthur Jacks the CO of Division One.What call sign number did they use; was it one?”“Ah…no, I think it was ten, one-zero.”“That means it’s not the Admiral on board, but it does mean a staff officer is on it.”A sudden, frightening thought hit him, “God, I hope the Admiral hasn’t sent one of his staff to offer condolences because Josey went and did something stupid again and got himself killed.”With that evil thought now circulating in all their heads, they could only stand at a safe distance and wait.#With the post-landing checklist complete and all systems shut down, Josiah and Phelps went through the main passenger area to the cross-hull airlock structure that had been added between the passenger area and the two private bed/sitting/work rooms.Phelps opened the starboard side hatch and they walked down the steps.As they walked toward the three standing near the building, Josiah pointed them out, “The one in the red shirt is my Father, Paul; the girl is my Sister, Allea, and the guy in the blue coveralls is Sam Gates, our chief drive systems tech.”Josiah could tell when his Father recognized him.They were about thirty meters away when his body language changed.Nothing was said when Josiah and Phelps stopped in front of them.All three had stunned looks on their faces.Finally, Paul West braced to attention and saluted his son.It caught Josiah by surprise but he was proud to return it.Paul West looked at the medals, ribbons, and shoulder boards, “I take it you’re not getting out of the Navy in a few months?”Josiah sighed and got an apologetic look on his face, “Well…no, something’s come up.” Then, he smiled and put an arm around Phelps shoulder, pushing him forward, “This is Steven Phelps.Commander, I would like you to meet my Father, Paul, my Sister Allea, and Sam Gates.Commander Phelps is Admiral Jacks’ personal shuttle pilot and I’m his replacement.”After shaking hands all around, Paul asked, “How long have you got?”“Only a couple of hours, we were doing a check ride and decided to drop in for lunch.Is Mom around?”“No, she’s at home, but I’ll have her here real quick.Let’s go to the cafeteria, you have a lot of explaining to do.”#Nearly three hours later, Phelps, Josiah, and his parents were standing at Kaleidoscope’s hatch.“Lunch” had turned into a carnival when most of the people in the plant had filled the cafeteria to greet Josiah and then insisted on a complete tour of Kaleidoscope.Phelps reached into his com pad pouch and fished out a tiny chip case, “Mister West…Paul…” he corrected as Paul West held up a cautioning hand, “I have here a complete copy of the Statement of Commendation and a video and audio recording of the ceremony.”Josiah turned a startled look at him.His telling of the story in the cafeteria had been…somewhat…lacking in the sharper edged details.“Your Son, understandably, does not want to distress you with the full measure of what nearly happened, but there are some very dear friends of mine that are alive only because he was there and willing and able to do what he did.His parents have a right to know how well they did.” He handed the chip to Paul and turned to Josiah, “I’ll be on the command deck.Have you told them about Nora yet?” He smiled and left.“Who’s Nora?” his Mother asked [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]