Voyage From Yesteryear

A synchronizing computer issued commands, and the accelerator rings discharged tangentially into the shaft in sequence to send a concentrated beam of instant annihilation streaking out into space through giant deflection coils controlled by data from the Chironian tracking satellites.

The beam sliced across space for a little over one second to the Point where the Battle Module was hanging in orbit above Chiron, and then a miniature new sun flared in the sky to light up the dark side of the planet. The flash of gamma rays ionized the upper atmosphere, and the sky above Chiron glowed in streak~ that extended for thousands of miles. Sensitive radiation-monitoring instruments were CHAP! F.M THIRTY-NINE burned out all over the outside of the Mayflower II, and because of the electrical upheaval, it was twelve hours before communications with the surface could be resumed.

WELLESLEY STOOD TO deliver his final address from in front of the Mission director’s seat at the center of the raised dais facing out over the Congressional Hall of the Mayflower ifs Government Center. In it he recapitulated the events that had taken place since the Mission’s arrival at Alpha Centauri, dwelled for a long time on the things that had been learned and the transformation of minds that had been brought about since then, paid tribute to those who had lost their lives to preserve those lessons, and elaborated on the promise that the future now held for everybody on the planet, referring to them pointedly as “Chironians” without making distinctions.

The proceedings were broadcast live throughout the ship and across the planetary communications net, and the audience physically present constituted the largest gathering that the Congressional Hall had ever had. All of the

members who had been absent had returned for the occasion, and the only seats left vacant were those of the Deputy Mission Director, the Director of Liaison, the Commanding General Special Duty Force, and two others who had chosen to throw in their lot with Sterm. Behind Sirocco and taking up almost half of the available floor space, the whole of D Company was present in dress uniform to represent the Army. Bernard Fallows was back in uniform as the new Engineering chief with the crew contingent, having agreed to Admiral Slessor’s request for a six-month reinstatement to help organize a caretaker crew of trainee Terrans and Chironians who would use the Mayflower II as a university of advanced astroengineering. Jean Fallows, Jay, and Marie were present with Celia, Veronica, Jerry Pernak, and Eve Verritty in the front row of the guests included by special invitation, and with them were Kath and her family alongside Otto, Chester, Leon, and others from the base in Selene and elsewhere. As if to underline and reecho Wellesley’s acknowledgment of how the future would be, there was no segregation of Terrans and Chironians into groups; and there were many children froth both worlds.

Wellesley concluded his formal speech and stood looking around the hall for a moment to allow a lighter mood to settle. In the last few days some of the color had returned to his face, his posture had become more upright and at ease, and his frame seemed to have shed a burden of years. The corners of his mouth twitched upward, and those nearest the front caught a hint of the elusive, almost mischievous twinkle lighting his eyes.

“And now I have one final task to perform,” he said. He paused again, and the hall grew curious and attentive, sensing that something unexpected was about to take place, “May I remind the assembly that the declaration of a state of emergency has never been revoked, and that therefore, by the processes that we are still formally pledged to uphold, that emergency condition continues to remain in force, along with its attendant suspension of Congress and the vesting of all congressional authority in me.” Puzzled expressions greeted his words, and a ripple of surprised murmurings ran around the hall. “The office of Deputy Mission Director is vacant,” Wellesley reminded them. “Accordingly, by the full powers of Congress at present vested solely in me as Mission Director, I hereby nominate, second, and appoint Paul Lechat as Deputy Director, ‘effective as of now.” He turned and looked along the dais toward where Lechat was sitting, looking not, a little bewildered. “Congratulations, Paul. And now would you kindly take your rightful place.” He gestured at the empty chair next to him. Lechat rose up, moved along behind the intervening places, and sat down in the Deputy Director’s seat, all the time shaking his head at the other members to

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