Ch 16 Return to Earth

AU-1A Shuttle
Inbound from Mars towards Earth
Solar System
Tuesday, October 26, 1999

The AU Teams had spent another week with the Glazen and Swizz.  There had been much to do.  Helping to setup Teams on the three alien worlds, setting up to manufacture AJ Power Generators and window generators, discussing what they had learned of the Nartak and the Qoof, and especially working on the developing relationship between the four species.  Finally, the three Teams had had to return to Earth to prepare for meeting the Clar.  They needed the time to concentrate on integrating the Teams now that they had full Teams.
 
Reducing acceleration to 1G.  Kevin Gilbert informed the captains of the other shuttles as he initiated the predetermined change.  With the other shuttles controlled by the lead shuttle, he was the only one that had to make the change.  On the return to Earth, the AU Team members were accompanied by Swizz and Glazen who would be joining the science and medical Teams in Queensland.  O-dof had stayed behind on Stroven.  There was no need for him or anyone else to assume the mantle of command over the shuttles.  The three AU Teams operated as a whole with those with the experience doing what was required.  Kevin and his new Life-Mate were the newest members of AU-1.  Jane Withel had been one of the pilots for the EU shuttles.  Now they were the flight crew of the AU-1A Shuttle.  The original trained flight crews of the shuttles had stayed behind to train on real starships.

I told Aunt Marie about the asteroids that we have to avoid.  Eric Reynolds report sounded much older than his five years.  The youngest Team members spending so much time in mental contact with the older Team members was speeding their learning and maturing.  He and his twin were back with their squad mates.  The squads with full complements of the four races were found to offer strong support for each of them so that they didn’t have to be together to scan the area ahead of the shuttles.  I did find one outside of our flight path that was almost all gold.
 
How big?  Ian asked curiously.

About seven meters for its longest dimension but it will not get in our way.
 
7 meters!  What is the shortest dimension?  Ian’s excitement had caught everyone’s attention.

2 meters.  Eric was confused at Ian’s excitement.  MME has bigger lodes than that.

However, the amount of gold in a ton of ore is extremely small.  You said that this was almost all gold.

Is it worth more?  Eric asks.

It is worth billions!
 
Eric, show Marie the location.  Marie, calculate a rough course change to start us towards the gold.  Kevin will execute it immediately.  Eric and Jerome, check for asteroids in our way.  Marie, follow that up with course information that will match us up with the asteroid.  Alyca, figure out how we should take the gold home.  Figure on spending a day on site.  Claire is letting Earth know that we will be delayed.  Robert directed the Team members.

*******

Three hours later, most of the shuttles had arrived near the asteroid.  Jerome had identified a nearby smaller gold asteroid that Marie had determined had separated from the main one after a collision just before they had left for Mars.  Willy had taken three of his Teams shuttles to pick up the smaller asteroid.  It was small enough that they could easily put into the cargo hold of one of the shuttles.

Kevin, move up and give it a nudge with the shuttle.  We will use that to estimate the mass.  Robert directed.

A slow nudge.  It is mostly gold with the rest being in the platinum group.  It masses hundreds of tons.  Ian had never heard of any finds of solid gold larger than nuggets.

No, we can use the flyers with which we are going to nudge it into the cargo trailer to estimate the mass.  We will need to do that on each axis to calculate the center of gravity for fastening it down.  I will suit up and … .  Bruce interrupted Alyca.

I will fly the flyer.  You won’t be putting yourself at risk until after our babies are born.  Bruce’s hand on her shoulder and wide smile forestalled her protest.

Bruce and Nancy took two flyers out.  Bruce initially nudged the asteroid a number of times to cancel the slow rotation in which they had found it.  While they were doing that Kevin had taken one of the cargo trailers and match up its hatch with another cargo trailer.  A half dozen, space suited figures had then started reloading the cargo into the other trailer.  Luckily, they had not seen the need to load up with many items from the Swizz and Glazen worlds.  Mostly they had samples of what they had found there.  The major item that they all had picked up was Swizz spacesuits for all the Team members.

Willy and those with him had arrived while the cargo was being move.  The piece of the asteroid that he had picked up was stowed in the AU-3A shuttle’s cargo hold.  It had been fastened down with the normal cargo straps, which were now being supplemented by additional bracing.  He joined Bruce and Nancy on the Team 3 flyer.

Those moving the cargo finished and returned to the shuttles.

OK.  I will move the empty cargo trailer so that the hatch is at the end of the long axis.  Bruce, guide me for fine adjustments.  Once it is in line, I will slide the trailer over the asteroid.  The three of you, space yourself around the asteroid and let me know if I get too close.  Kevin started to move his shuttle and the cargo trailer.  He did it quickly with only minor corrections.

OK, that wasn’t that hard but we need to have a better way to move large objects that we find.  Kevin was smiling at what he had just accomplished.

Jane smiled at her Life-Mate.  I get to do the unload.  She expected them to leave it in orbit by one of the construction sites.

We’ll unload on Earth.  So maybe you just want to bring the load down.  We’ll just disassemble the cargo trailer after we land.  The bottom will be crushed with the 810 tons of weight of the asteroid.  Ian told her.

I don’t know if I want to land with that much weight in the trailer.  Jane knew that a wind could affect the shuttles landing.

Dad is going to have a hole dug.  We’re just going to drop it into the hole.  You can just fly down until the cargo trailer is over the hole.  Disconnect the trailer and just let it fall.  The shuttle is not made to have that much weight tied to it during a landing.  Ian and his father had been discussing what to do with the asteroid when they brought it back.

They mounted Stanley propulsion units taken from the trailer onto the asteroid with connections to the trailer’s control system.  Only a minimum of propulsion units were left attached to the trailer.

As they resumed their trip to Earth, Teresa asked.  Why did we put it in the trailer?  Couldn’t we have just attached the propulsion units to the asteroid and taken it to Earth.

Alyca immediately saw that Teresa’s was right.  What they were doing was just attaching the trailer around the asteroid that they were flying to earth.

<AP  October 26, 1999 – Gold Asteroid Discovered in Space>
 
The Townsville Teams during their return voyage from Mars have discovered an asteroid of solid gold.  They diverted to the asteroid and were able to recover it.  Initial reports of the asteroid are confused as to the size.  They mention both 23 tons and 810 tons.  At recent prices for gold, 23 tons would be worth almost 500 million dollars.  Spacecraft construction has driven up prices for most metals but especially gold and the platinum group metals. …

The discovery of the gold asteroid had set up a lively discussion in the Teams that grew to include MME and the heads of Australia, the United States, and Great Britain.

The bigger asteroid will be worth over $15 billion.  The news of you finding it has disturbed the commodity markets so the price of gold and other metals are bouncing around.  The boys share will be about $3 billion.  Leslie informed them.

The twins don’t need that much money.  Kim thought of the effect of having each of them being billionaires on the relationship to others their own age.  Being members of the Teams was hard enough when you were five.

We are part of the Teams.  We should all share it.  Being a member of the Teams was very important to Eric and his brothers.

The Australian government will get a share of that through taxes.  Jimmy Hunt knew that his government could use the money to fund the projects that the discovery of the other worlds and races were requiring.

If you want to bring it to Carlisle, we can give you a reduced tax rate.  Charlie Blake joked.

Charlie, we don’t want to start a competition for the lowest taxes.  The Australian Teams found it and MME can process it.  Jimmy, you might want to consider how you tax this since bring minerals back from the adjacent worlds for refinement might want to be encouraged.  President David Clarke told the two Prime Ministers.

You might want to use a value added tax.  Leslie suggested.  That way you will encourage production improvements. 
 
Leslie, the boys aren’t entitled to 20% under your agreement with them.  John Harvey told them.  That agreement was for what MME would mine.  These asteroids were recovered by the Teams.  Legally this was more like a treasure find.
 
So the boys only get their share as a member of the Teams which is what Eric said.  The relief in Kim’s thoughts was evident.
 
Leslie, would 10 percent above your costs to guard and refine the asteroids be a good return for MME.  Claire asked her future mother-in-law.
 
I would love to make ten percent in our operations.  Leslie knew some MME mining operations netted only 1 or 2 %.  Six percent would be good enough.
 
No, let us make it ten percent.  You need the money to keep pace with the developments that are happening.  It also gives Jimmy more money.  Claire had privately consulted John Harvey.  The smaller one we will deliver to Smythe Industries.

Claire, that is a lot of money to be deciding so quickly.  It sounds like you have some plans.  Dave could tell that his daughter and her Life-Mates had some plans that he hadn’t heard about.

Well we have been spending a lot of money for things that we know are needed.  As for the rest of the money, there are quite a number of things that we will need it for, but the priority is for the other Teams.  Earth has 2437 Teams beside our three Teams.  Some of them have money available but nothing compared to what we had and especially not compared to what we have now.  We plan to help them with some of the money.

What do they need?  Charlie Blake asked.  We and a number of other governments made a commitment to support the Teams.

What they need are the other members of their Teams.  Not just Humans and Kin or even Humans, Kin, Glazen and Swizz.  We will also need Clar members for all the Teams.  Claire’s statement surprised the three heads of government.

What Nancy now told them reminded all of them that more than Earth was the concern of the three Life-Mates.  Most of those Teams will be leaving Earth.  They need to find the members of their Teams from other species.  Then they will be setting up on other worlds.  They will not be as lucky as we are.

That is forty thousand humans!  AU PM Jimmy Hunt was familiar with the Teams since like President Dave Clarke his children were members of the AU Teams.  Are there that many Kin available to join the Teams?  The Kin had the smallest population of any of the species from which the Team members came.

Originally, we were joining the Teams based on the bonding we had with individual Humans, Glazen, and Swizz.  Moiria, who was bonded with Nancy, replied.  This resulted in packs loosing members to the new packs set up for the Teams.  Lately we have found that an entire pack was being attracted to a Team.  A pack as a whole would join a Team.  It has been hard for the packs to travel to the Teams.
 
After a pack has identified the Team that they should join, they find that it is difficult to traveling to them?  Dave was not sure if he fully understood the problem.
 
Dad, a pack is around one hundred adults, their young, and their herds.  The Kin feel that their herds are their dependants.  We are talking somewhere around ten thousand with the larger herds that the Kin are gathering now.
 
Why are the Kin gathering larger herds?  Charlie asked.

The Kin are few.  We have kept are numbers to what we should have in our land.  With all these new worlds, we can expand.
 
What Moiria did not say was that they feel that they need to expand so that they may take their share of the responsibility.  Nancy added.
 
Oil tankers.  Dave thought surprised everyone.  With the AJ Power Generators coming into general use, the need for oil is down and there is a surplus of oil tankers.
 
Not used oil tankers, at least not at first, but there is a number of new tankers under construction and at least three have been finished but no one had a need for them.  Leslie had been approached by both the owners and builders on the possibility of using them in space.  We can use them as ships or by adding Stanley propulsion units we can fly them.

Fly them.  Robert knew that providing for the herds on a sea voyage of weeks would be hard.  Not to mention what the Kin would have to do to keep them calm in a rocking ship.  We will also have to make some of them space worthy so that we can move Kin packs to Mars so they can join the Glazen and Swizz based Teams.

You will need move gold asteroids.  Jimmy Hunt knew how much an oil super tanker cost.

No.  We will offer a joint venture with them.  We will provide the conversion and they will supply the tanker.  We can use them for moving the Kin packs but I suspect that they will be just as busy providing transportation to Humans, Glazen, and Swizz until we can get proper spacecraft to provide transportation between Earth and Mars.  The chambers on a tanker are stronger than a shuttle.  The trip will take a few days so we need sleeping and eating accommodations.  The cruise lines were looking to convert their ships since most people are taking trips to Friendship and the other worlds, but they have too many windows and doors.
 
Leslie, it sounds like you have been given this some thought.  Dave commented.
 
As soon as they reported that we could access a Glazen world through a window on Mars, I knew we had to have a way to transport people and cargo between Earth and Mars.  It would take too long to build spacecraft so converting ships looked like the best way, but MME doesn’t have the money to do it and I knew we were in better shape than any of the governments were.  Besides this is something that should be done by the private sector not governments.
 
But even fifteen billion dollars is not enough to do the conversion that we will need.  Jimmy knew that it would take many times that much to do what was needed.

No, the Teams aren’t going to pay for the conversions.  What they will do is book passage in the ships.  The joint ventures will be able to borrow money to do the work.  The fifteen billion dollars will just prime the pump.  The lenders know there is money to be made in trade between Earth and Mars but they don’t know where to invest.  With the Teams offering to pay especially coming up with those gold asteroids, the lenders will be fighting to invest.

They would have lent MME the money.  Jimmy knew that the Macphater’s company was looked on as a gold mine.  There had been numerous offers to take it public, but the family had politely said they liked things as they were.  He had talked to Leslie and her father about it a number of times.  He felt that the expansion from going public would be good for Australia.

Jimmy, I know you still think that we should go public and expand, but we want to be able to make decisions without having to worry about stockholders.  We would have never gotten where we did if Trail Drive, Smythe Industries, and MME hadn’t been private companies.  If Jess hadn’t had such a reputation bringing new inventions to TI we would never had the controllers for the AJ Power Generators or the Maclaren Window Generators.  As it was, he had to put up the money to have the test equipment that we would need for the expansion.  We have plenty of people more than willing to do joint ventures with us.  We will let them run things but we will get what we need without having to have family members directly involved.

So family is what you are short of.  Dave wondered what he and Sue could help with when he was out of office.

Dad, we will need you and mom to co-ordinate for the Teams with the Human, Glazen, and Swizz governments when you are out of office.  Claire’s comment made Dave wonder if she was reading his mind.  

No, we did not read your mind.  Again, it was as if she had read is mind.

There was a pause of a few seconds, which was long in mental communication.  The three Life-Mates were discussing what to say and they had asked the advice of the Group Mind.

We are not actually reading minds but when someone is close to us as our parents or other family members are we do catch some hints of what they are thinking but that is not the main way that we our learning things.  Nancy had taken over for the explanation.  We are now at some level in constant contact with the members of our squad and to a lesser extend to our Team and the other two AU Teams.  We expect this to grow once other Teams have members of the other species.  The Teams that now have Kin members are closer to us.  Alyca and Bruce, Willy and Linda, and Patty and David with their squads are now showing more capability also.  This will be necessary for what we will have to do.  What will happen when the Clar join us is unknown.  We expect that it will be a major step though since they are so important to what is to come.

How can you stand this?  Charlie couldn’t imagine having the constant presence of so many others.
 
No.  It is just the opposite.  We would not go back to what we were.  It is like what the Kin have but with added abilities and understanding.
 
So are those not in the Teams then the herds for who your pack of Teams responsibility?  Dave was worried that they were separating from what they had been.
 
Our herds are the Nartak, the Qoof, the Mossen, and others that need our help.  We expect that in time everyone in our five species will be on Teams or that which will come after the Teams.  What we have been told is that the Nartak and the Qoof have both gone astray.  We are to bring them back to the path on which that they should be.  We also are to help the species that they have conquered.  We are not clear about the Mossen but they will be Patty and Dave’s responsibility.
 
 We’re responsible for the Mossen!  Patty, Dave, and the other members of the three Teams hadn’t previously heard this complete of an explanation of what they were expected to do.

We had not worked this out until just now.  This discussion led us to see more of what is necessary.  We sought the Group Mind’s advice and were able to understand more.  There is more but this is what we understand.  It was as if Robert sighed.  If this is hard for you, it is more so for us.  We will get back to you.
 
The three Life-Mates had cut contact with everyone but themselves.

They are just sitting there holding hands.  Patty was upset.

It’s like when you meet your Life-Mate for the first time.  Teresa told them.

They now have the dreams that guide them while awake.  Moira thoughts are very happy.  I understand more of what the Kin’s part is.  We are the template for how the Teams will be.  Individuals but also one.  What they will be is what they seek to understand.
 
Kim turned to where Alice lay.  The baby had woken up but wasn’t crying for food or a change.  She was giggling.  She could feel how happy she was.

*******

Dad, can you make some of the gold in Fort Knox available for building spacecraft in the US.  We will replace it.

Claire, you are bringing back a lot of gold but there is still a limit to…  Dave stopped.  There is more!
 
We asked Jerome and Eric to check.  We stopped when they found four.  They had covered a lot of space but we assume that there are many more gold asteroids.  None of the four is as big as this one.
 
You are bringing two back.
 
No, they were both part of the same asteroid before we left for Mars.  Claire paused.  We believe that it was moved so we would find it when we returned.  It was hit with another asteroid and the smaller piece of gold broke off.
 
Do the other star systems have gold asteroids?
 
Root and Rickk, they are the Swizz planetologist on Team 2, believe that they are from the planetoid that broke up and formed the asteroid belt.  We will check our other main systems when we get back to Earth.  The Clar are mining the asteroids in the Kartan system.

Townsville, Australia
Thursday, October 28, 1999

How are we going to handle all the apprentices?  Linda remembered that less than a month ago that she and Willy had been complaining about having few apprentices.  Sheila and Tom were in Team 3, but they were actually Marie’s apprentices.  Besides, there were full squad members on Team 1 that were younger than Sheila and Tom, who just needed a little more training.  They had even found Swizz and Glazen squad mates when the rest of the squads had.

We are lucky that Dad let us know how many were on their way.  Robert remembered the surprise that message had brought on their third day on Lotatt.

We have had five pair of Life-Mates meet each other from the ninety-seven apprentices.  At least two of those Life-Mate pairs should not go back to their home countries.  Nancy and her Life-Mates had spent time since their return counseling them.

Add another pair to the refugee listDavid smiled at Patty.  My sister wasn’t as lucky as Patty and I.  I just checked the apprentices to see if I knew any of their Life-Mates.  Rachael has a Pashtu Life-Mate.  Things are changing but I don’t think the time is right for them to join a Team in Afghanistan or Israel.

They had some problem with Khialay when he first arrived.  He is smart but this is the first time he has been out of the mountains.  Claire remembered him asking Robert when they met if they would each have four wives.  He will take some time to adjust.  Tell Rachael she should move here to be with her Life-Mate.  I will have arrangements made for her.  Explain the situation and that we want them to meet before he learns about her.  Having us there is probably the best way to handle this.

AU Team 1 Compound on Frontier
Friday, October 29, 1999

Claire entered their new compound and turned to look back at the new apprentices as they followed them in.  The run had only been five miles but they were strung out almost a mile.  Dave and Fran were at the end of the line with the stragglers.  With them was Less with a string of her horses.  Four of the apprentices were mounted on them but only one was  injured with a twisted ankle.  The other three were just out of shape.

Steve and Carol led the young apprentices over to Claire and her Life-Mates.  They had decided anyone under ten wouldn’t do the run.  They would have had the cutoff a couple of years older but they knew that KA would insist on being with her Life-Mate Mike.  As it turned out, she was keeping up with her two years older Life-Mate and they weren’t at the tail end of the group but just back of the middle of the group.  Will’s conditioning program had done wonders for them over the past few months.  Now they would just have to get the new apprentices in shape.

Khialay entered the compound.  He was the first of the new apprentices to finish but he was spent.  Right behind him was Jenny and Al White.  The twins had been ordered to press him but not pass him.  Khialay at twenty was not going to let a couple of thirteen year-olds best him.  Especially since one was a girl.  He was having a hard time with the concept of women as equals.  Women’s western clothing was still bothering him.  That they were out in shorts and tee shirts doing the same exercises as him had almost got him to quit and go home.

The three Life-Mates went over to Khialay.

Well done.  Robert was the one to address him.  Having Claire or Nancy speak with him hadn’t worked out well.  They definitely didn’t want to upset him just before he met Rachael.

A smile broke out on Khialay’s face but then he glanced at the two girls.  When he saw approval also on their faces, his smile broadened, before he realized that he sought their approval as much as he sought Robert’s approval.  A look of confusion replaced the smile.

This is a time of changes.  We are finding that we do not understand as much that we thought that we did.  We need everyone’s views and ideas so we can reach a new understanding.  All of us must maintain an open mind.

Though Robert spoke to everyone in the compound, Khialay realized that he especially was being addressed.

Khialay, we have someone that we want you to meet.
 
Khialay looked to where Robert pointed.  The first person he saw was the Jew that everyone said was to lead the California Teams, then he realized that there was someone with him beside his Life-Mate.  As he looked at her he was drawn to her, unlike he had ever been drawn to anyone before.  He took three steps towards her then stopped realizing what he was doing.  Then he realized why Robert had told them to maintain an open mind.  He quickly moved until he was standing in front of her.  He didn’t know what to do next.  He now saw from her face that she also was unsure.  Then he realized that she must be David Meir’s sister.  Jewish.  He considered that for only a second.  No, it is a time of change.  Allah was revealing more and there would be new understanding.  Humans must join together with the other four races to face great evil.  And he has shown me that I must change.  He turned to David and nodded.

Khialay, this is my sister Rachael.  The two of you are Life-Mates.  David having been joined mentally with Patty and the rest of their squad had followed much of the change that had occurred.  He smiled as Khialay held out his hand to Rachael who took it.  The smiles on their faces as they stared into each other’s eyes reminded him of when he met Patty.  Then just as he sensed Rachael reaching out mentally, a shield went up.  He turned to the three-fold Life-Mates.  Thank you.

White House
Washington DC
Thursday, November 25, 1999

Jane Withel Gilbert set the AU-1A shuttle down quietly on the White House helipad.  Her new husband, Kevin, sat at the new weapons console.  When Teresa had wondered why he wasn’t going to pilot, he had told her that Jane was as good a pilot as he was but that he had more experienced with weapon systems.

When the hatch opened, Tommy Clarke was the first out.  He ran over to where his mother and father were flanked by Secret Service agents.  “Mom, Dad!”

His mother knelt down to embrace him.  President Clarke knelt down to hug his wife and son.

Jason and Teresa holding hands were the next to approach the first family.  “President Clarke, Mrs. Clarke,   This is my Life-Mate Teresa Fusco.”

Dave Clarke was surprised at the changes that he noted in Jason Reynolds.  He and Tommy were both eight, but Jason seemed much older, but the thing that really differentiated them was the bond between Jason and Teresa.  Dave stood up and offered his hand to Teresa.  “Teresa, we are happy to finally meet you.  Tommy and Claire have spoken often about you.”  Even in the dim lighting, he could see that Teresa was blushing.  “How did the Glazen and Swizz worlds meet your expectation from before you met Jason?”

“They were wonderful, but the Qoof and the Nartak are worse than I expected.  They have no care for any other species.  We are going to set them …”

Claire cut her off.  Teresa, you and my dad can discuss this later.  You need to get some sleep.  We have a busy schedule.  Remember it is 1 AM here.

“Mr. President, we can talk about this in the morning.  I need to get some sleep.”

Dave had been included in Claire’s mental message so he wasn’t surprised at Teresa comment but he was surprised at how easily and readily Claire had accomplished her guidance of the young girl.  He could tell that Teresa would readily continue the discussion if allowed but she was willing to wait until after she slept.

Claire hugged her father and mother.  She then introduced them to the non-human squad members.

Sue had been surprised that Robert and Nancy had not been with Claire, but they now approached with the luggage for the six humans.

Nancy handed the three youngsters their luggage then turned to Sue and hugged her.  “Mother Sue, it is good to see you again.”

Sue was overwhelmed by the love she felt from her daughter’s female Life-Mate.  When they broke apart, Robert grabbed her lifting her off her feet and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  Sue was surprised until she realized that it was what she had done to Claire and Tommy when they were little.

When Robert put her down, he turned to Dave and extended his hand.  Dave who had just seen Robert and Sue’s embrace when he and Nancy had hugged stepped forward and embraced Robert.

When they broke Robert smiled.  “I wasn’t sure how the Secret Service would take me giving you a hug.”

“I told Jeff that I was going to do it so he passed it on.”  Dave looked over at the head of the White House Secret Service protection.

“Mom, dad.  You know Kevin.  This is his wife Jane.  They will be demonstrating the Swizz and Glazen upgrades that we are adding to the shuttles.”  They shook hands.

Dave turned to a group standing to the side and motioned them forward.  He introduced the NASA scientists and military officers.

“We had several more individual that wanted to see the Swizz and Glazen equipment in operation.  I thought that the shuttles could handle more than a dozen passengers.”  The NASA administrator asked.

“It can but we have it configured for mixed species and kids.  We don’t have the ability to quick change the seating.  I doubt that you have anyone that can sit in a seat built for my brother.” Claire replied.

“The seating is configured like we will us when we go to meet the Clar.”  Kevin added.

“Tommy is going.”  Sue had known that Claire and her Life-Mates would be leading the expedition to the Clar but hadn’t expected Tommy to participate.

“Only Jason and Teresa will be with us.  Tommy will be on Kartan by a window back to Earth.  Jason and Teresa are our best Life-Mates for detecting people and communicating with them.  We have determined that we will need all of Jess’s grandchildren except Alice.  Well we think we don’t need Alice but we have a cradle available in case things change.”

“It sounds like you are unsure about the mission.”  Dave was concerned.

“We are missing something.  We can feel it but no hunches or visions about what.”  Nancy was the expert of the squad on the hunches, visions, and dreams that had guided much of what they had done over the last few months.  “I think that we have grown too use to having outside guidance and we are being weaned of that dependence.”

“We did have the one about all of us coming here and enjoying ourselves.”  Teresa reminded them.

“Yeah, I painted a picture of the whole squad sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with you.”  Nancy laughed.  They were still trying to understand that message.

“Really!”  Dave hadn’t heard about this painting.  “Was anyone else there?”

“No, but it looked more like a news photo than a candid scene of us eating.”  Claire had known that her parents had planned to keep the dinner private.  “I guess that you need to invite the press or have one of Mr. Raines people take photos.”

“No, we will invite the press.  I am surprised Lisa Saunders did not accompany you.”  Dave knew that the Fox News White House correspondent had learned about Claire and Tommy being here for Thanksgiving.  They had had to promise an interview so she would keep quiet.

“No, she and Tom are taken a honeymoon in Tahiti.”  Claire smiled.  There had been a lot of weddings in the Teams since they returned from Mars.  She was surprised that Robert’s sisters and brother had not followed suit.  “The shuttle needs to go before it creates too much notice.  Then we all need to get some sleep.”

They separated.  Less than fifteen minutes after the shuttle had landed, it had silently returned to space.

White House Residence Area
Washington DC
Thursday, November 25, 1999

The Thanksgiving dinner preparations had gone from a family meal to something a little more but still a family meal.  The White House chef had welcomed the guest’s information on how to prepare meals for the other species.  When he had told Jeff Wilson that now he would be ready when there were important visitors from the other species, the Secret Service supervisor had laughed and told him that those that he would feed today were the new leaders of the four species even if they didn’t themselves recognize the fact yet.

Dinner would be served in the State Dining room, but Dave had everyone there early to meet with Stephanie Adams, the Fox correspondent.

“President Clarke, thank you for allowing me to meet with your daughter and her Team members.  I am surprised that you would schedule it for before your Thanksgiving meal.”

“That was so that I could be sure that they would be available.”  Dave’s smile showed that he was joking.

“Claire, what do you feel is the most significant thing for you in the past six months?”

“Robert and Nancy.”  Claire held up her hand before she could be asked to expand on her answer.  “Stephanie, Lisa just told me that you and your daughter might enjoy having Thanksgiving dinner with us.  Can I have someone bring her up from where she is waiting for you?”

“Lisa Saunders?  You were discussing me with her?”

“Lisa Saunders Farrel for the past two days.  I left a message for her to contact me since I did not want to interrupt their honeymoon.  She mentioned that you had lost your husband recently and thought it would be good for the two of you to join us.”

Stephanie was surprised in many ways.  Lisa hadn’t been known for her consideration of other reporters.  She was also surprised that Claire would have asked without consulting her parents.  No, mental communications.  Claire had probably discussed this with them without her noticing anything.  She had to concentrate when she wanted to communicate with Jill.  Guess she should tell Jill.  Jill, we have been invited to have dinner with the President and his family.  Someone will bring you here.  “Thank you, we had planned to eat out.  I just told Jill.”

Stephanie continued her questions while the Team members stood and made a place for the two guests between Claire and Teresa.

A bewildered Jill was escorted into the room.  When she saw her mother, she quickly walked over to her.

Teresa rose up and offered her hand.  “Jill, I am Teresa.  I am the junior member of the Australian Team 1 Squad A.  Let me introduce you.”  When she had finished she turned back to Jill and Stephanie.  “Jill has Team level talent.”

“What?”  I just lost her husband.  I don’t want to lose her daughter fighting aliens on another world.  Why couldn’t they leave the aliens alone?

“The Qoof and the Nartak need to be brought back to their paths.  They mistreat all other species.  Their minds are terrible.  They are xenoph…”  Teresa looked to Claire for assistance.

“Xenophobic.  Jill, do you know what that means?”

“Hatred or fear of those different from you.  I am twelve but I am in the ninth grade.  If I were on a Team, would I be going to visit other worlds?  I want to learn about the different species and how they are different and the same.”  Jill realized then that she was about to have Thanksgiving dinner with three of those different species.

“Yes, we will have science Teams that will visit other worlds and learn about the different people there.”  Claire realized that she needed to clarify her statement from the look on Jill’s face.  “We use the term people to remind us that though we are different species that we are all people.”

“You have Teams that are not going to fight?”  Stephanie had thought that the Teams were all being trained to fight the Qoof and the Nartak.

“All Teams will be taught to fight, but we expect that most Teams will not have to unless they are attacked.”  Robert addressed the military issue.  “As Teresa said, the job we have been given is to bring the Qoof and the Nartak back on the paths that they should be following.  To do that, we do not want to start a big war.  We need to guide them not destroy them.  They have two large empires that have been in constant conflict for over three thousand years.  We will not beat them militarily.  We need to be smarter than them.”  He looked at Jill.  “We need all the smart people that we can get on the Teams so that we can do that.”

“Stephanie, dinner will be served in about thirty-five minutes.  You should continue your interview until then.  That will give you a better understanding about the Teams.  After dinner, we can talk about what it would mean for Jill to join one of the Teams.”  Sue Clarke suggested.

Stephanie continued the interview but her interest in the answers was now more personal than professional.  She was surprised at how readily the Team members were to answer her questions.  She gets the impression that they are eager to have their story told.  It was not just Claire, Nancy, and Robert.  The non-human Team members also were eager.

“Claire, I get the feeling that this interview is important to all of you.  Why is that?”

“Stephanie, we have gone places and done things that six months ago we would not have even dreamed about doing.  Currently our three Teams are the most involved but the other Teams are starting to take up more of the work.  We expect that as time goes on, more and more people will be involved, but still the percentage of people involved will be small.  We want to ensure that those not directly involved know and understand what is happening.  We have spoken many times about the Group Mind that has formed from our four species and that will expand to include the Clar when they join us.  Robert, Nancy, and I are in contact with the Group Mind.  We discuss many things with it.  It learns from our talks but it also learns from everyone who is a part of it.”

That evening, Stephanie learned much about what her daughter’s life would be like when she joined the Teams.

Chapter 17 – Hand

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