Tanaka started counting down by tens when it was sixty seconds to jump.
“Fifty..forty..thirty..twenty..ten..five, four, three, two, one jump.” On the word jump, Watez pushed down on the key.
Watez's vision blacked out and a pain shot through her as though someone had hit the back of her head with a bat. Suddenly, the pain was gone and her vision started to clear. She could see the controls, and saw that the ship was stable, no tumbling, pitch or yaw. There had been some concern that they would come out of the jump spinning.
“Status?” ordered Watez
“Good.” answered Tanaka and Paulson in turn.
“Get me a fix, Oka. RP, full system check.” They silently busied themselves getting Watez the wanted information. After a few minutes Paulson reported all systems green. Watez restarted her computer and, as it was booting up, she heard over the radio.
“X-301, X-301 this is Olympia do you copy?”
“Go, Olympia.” answered Watez.
“You’re right on the money Amber Dawn, you just popped out of nowhere!” the radio crackled.
“Confirmed we are five hundred kilometers from Mars L1.” said Tanaka in her best spacer voice.
“Confirmed, Olympia. Hey Tom how's the wife and kids?” the tension was gone from Watez's voice now.
“The kids miss their auntie Amber, and the wife wants to know when you're coming over for diner?”
“’Auntie Amber,’ that I gotta see,” smirked Paulson
“Watch it, junior, or you'll be walking home,” Watez said in the best ‘mom voice’ she could come up with. The tension that had built up before the jump had broken, and the crew of the X-301 were all feeling a little giddy.
“Capacitor at one percent. Sixty minutes to full charge,” stated Paulson in a businesslike voice.
“Course calculated twenty percent burn in five minutes. Jump in ninety minutes,” Tanaka replied.
“Olympia, the clock is running. Return jump in nine-zero minutes, mark. Sorry, Tom, boss wants us back at the office. Maybe next time?” Watez said in a back-to-business way.
A few minutes later, the observation ship responded, “Jump in eighty five minutes, roger, X-301. Sorry to hear that, Amber, catch you next time. Godspeed,” then the radio went silent.
“So you know the Captain of the Olympia?” Tanaka asked with a little jealousy in her voice.
“Yep, we shipped together on the Mars-Luna run,” Watez answered.
“So he was the one that got away?” Tanaka inquired.
“No. He was fun, but not that fun,” Watez said with a smile in her voice.
After ten hours of medical exams and eight hours of sleep, the crew of the X-301 went to the Foundation's conference room. They stopped just inside when they saw it: The room was full and as they entered, all the people stood and started to applaud. Stryker stepped forward and shook Watez's hand.
“Smile, Amber, this is being transmitted live to the whole system,” Stryker whispered.
‘Jesus Christ,’ thought Watez, ‘who do they think we are, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin?’
Each of the Foundation's directors stepped forward and shook their hands. Tanaka looked as if she wanted to run and hide. Paulson was soaking it up, like he was a ball player who just hit the game-winning home run. The last to come was the habitat administrator.
“We thought that you should get these,” she said, and with that she pinned a flaming comet made of gold onto Watez's jump suit. It was in the general location where a set of flight wings might have gone, if they were back in the twentieth century. Tanaka and Paulson received the same comet, but in silver. They didn’t know it, but they had just started a tradition that would last almost three hundred years.
As the administrator moved away from the crew, someone yelled “We're out” and with that the unexpected ceremony ended. People started to file out shaking their hands as they passed.
“OK people lets get started we have a lot to do and no time to do it in,” Stryker said, pounding the table with a gavel when the room was down to about half-full.
“What was all that about?” demanded Watez
“All three of you are mankind's newest heroes,” Stryker said, seemingly pleased with himself.Tanaka looked like she wanted to crawl under the table, Paulson had a smile that looked to spit his face and all Watez could muster was a one word statement:
After everyone in the meeting got a chance to shake hands and pound the backs of the X-301 crew, things settled down. Tanaka and