The Launching of the Distant Voyager
There was no almost no sound; just the gentle murmur of the wind through the trees and the lapping of the tiny waves of Elevenmile Canyon Reservoir rolling up the shore and onto the jetty at the tiny ranger station. The sun shone down, warming the area and lending a sleepy quality to the day. It was a lovely summer’s afternoon.
On the jetty stood four people – two men, one woman and a girl, one of the men with his arm around the woman. He gazed out across the lake, watching the ripples, absorbing the sun. The other man – a tall, heavily built black man with a close shaven head and a large black tattoo of a hawk on his forehead – was more interested in the temporary construction beside them, a makeshift drydock complete with launching ramp. Atop the ramp sat an elderly but immaculately kept yacht with the words Distant Voyager emblazoned along its side. He turned, and walked with slow, measured steps along the side of the boat, hands clasped behind his back. As he went he regarded the old wooden hull with some suspicion.
“Captain West. Are you not confident in this vessel’s ability to remain afloat?”
The other man sighed and stepped away from the woman. He was much smaller than his friend in every dimension; his small frame bore tight, wiry muscles and he seemed alert, despite his casual stance.
“Of course I am confident Amo’c. I wouldn’t be putting it in there if I thought it would sink.”
“Then should we not proceed with this operation before the daylight fails?”
West shook his head. “I was hoping to enjoy this moment…”
Amo’c turned away from the boat. “On Soma-Kesh it is traditional to enjoy moments after the work has been accomplished.”
The woman, Dr Janet Fraiser, hid a smile. “And a very sensible attitude that is too. Come on James, you’ll have years to stare at this lake once you’re living on it.”
“None of you have any romance in your soul.” muttered West as he moved to the launch controls. “Come on Cassie, you can set things in motion.”
Cassandra ran over and grabbed the lever. Leaning over, she whispered to West “I like looking at the lake.” “Well maybe you can tell your Mum off later.” West answered. Quickly he climbed up to the deck of the boat then paused and looked around.
“I feel I should say some words.”
“How about ‘Let us hope this stays afloat’?” suggested Amo’c.
West glared at him and looked down at Cassandra. “Pull the lever.”
There was a low rumble as the yacht slowly descended the ramp and a great splash as it slid into the water. Cassandra stepped to the water’s edge, waved her hand dramatically and intoned “I declare this boat … launched!” There were a few moments of frantic activity as West moved around the yacht ensuring it had made it into the water safely, and then he dropped the anchor. “Come on over!” he called to the shore. The other three jumped into a small rowing boat, Amo’c paddled them over and West helped them aboard.
On deck, Amo’c looked around. “It seems I was wrong, West. This vessel is indeed lakeworthy.” West nodded. “Yes, she has been in my family for a long time. It was passed to me by my uncle when I received the Air Force Cross. I think he approved of that.”
“Your uncle was a man of note then?”
West nodded and turned to retie a rope. Fraiser walked across the deck and looked up at Amo’c. “James’s uncle is General West – General Hammond’s predecessor. Hasn’t he told you that?”
Amo’c was saved from answering by West. “Who wants a tour?” “I do!” Cassie ran over and West took her hand and led her down some narrow stairs into the lower parts of the yacht. Fraiser and Amo’c followed; the latter bending low to fit through the passage. Below they heard Cassandra’s exclamation of surprise and delight. “Wow! I didn’t know you could decorate like this! Mum, come and look!”
Fraiser descended into the central living area and stood, astonished as she found herself in a large, open room. Clearly several of the rooms had been combined to create this open area. The entire space was filled with exotic houseplants – hundreds of them, displaying thousands of colours. In the centre was a small seating area decorated with dozens of bonsai trees. West stood there whilst Cassandra moved around looking at the various plants.
West grinned. “Yes, I had a couple of modifications made to the inside rooms. I don’t really intend to be playing host to nearly a dozen people.” Fraiser moved in and gently touched a plant – a big red thing she had never seen before with giant leaves. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”
“Sure you have; my office at the base.”
“Yes, but that is just a few plants compared to this.”
Amo’c strode around the room. “It appears you have brought together many different species of plant.”
“Yes, many cultures here on Earth use plants as a form of art. I have tried to blend a few styles to create something a bit different.”
“You have succeeded. It is most impressive.”
West finished the tour, showing them the few remaining bedrooms and the galley then took them back on deck and handing out fishing rods. “I had planned on catching our dinner. Biggest fish doesn’t have to gut them.”
Amo’c took his rod and looked at it. “What is the purpose of this device?”
West moved to the side of the boat and started helping Cassandra set up her rod. “It’s to catch fish.”
“Would not a net be more effective? That way you could catch many at a time.”
“Maybe, but we only want a couple. Anyway, it is more fun this way.”
Looking dubious, Amo’c moved to the side of the boat and cast out his line. All four sat down on the deck, sun streaming down, lines arcing into the water. After a long silence Amo’c spoke up again.
“I am grateful for your invitation to live out here West. However, with your reconstruction of the interior, will there be space for all four of us?”
West and Fraiser glanced at each other. Fraiser answered. “No, Amo’c. Cassandra and I won’t be living here – we have a house in Colorado Springs. We are just visiting.”
Amo’c raised an eyebrow. “But you spend much time together. It seems most inefficient for you to live apart. You find each others company agreeable, do you not?”
“That isn’t really the point. I’m sure James wants his own space.”
Amo’c turned back to face the lake. “I see. You are kalah-tah.”
“What does that…” Fraiser began, but West interrupted her “No, that is not the case.” Fraiser turned a questioning look on West, who winced. “He’s just exercising that Jaffa wit.” He turned back to Amo’c. “Please stop trying to be helpful.”
Amo’c closed his eyes and leaned back in the sun, a ghost of a smile playing over his lips. “Indeed.”