Paulson took their places with the scientists and engineers in the back of the room. Watez sat down in her normal chair in the center.
“”Mitsubishi has given us their ship to be converted into the X-302, and…” Striker was saying.
“Sir can we name the ship for god's sake?” Watez interrupted.
“All right captain, anyone have a suggestion?” asked Stryker, with half a smile.
Someone in the back of the room shouted “Yamato,” Watez replied with a glare that could have melted steel plate. After a few minutes of back and forth it was decided to name the new ship the ‘Leif Ericson.’
Commander Amber Dawn Watez floated before the observation windows in Mitsubishi's construction shack looking down onto her new command: the Federation Research Ship Leif Ericson. The ship was three hundred meters of open girders and cylinders with the biggest plasma engines she had ever seem on one end, and what looked like giant landing legs on the other. The legs added another thirty meters to the overall length, and though it was spidery and ungainly, it was a beauty to a spacers’ eyes.
Even so, Watez was not happy. She didn’t know if she wanted to cry, laugh, or punch someone. Unable to figure it out, she ended up just saying “Crap,“ under her breath.
“Skipper, if you keep saying that it's going to become the ship's motto,” said Paulson, Watez just looked at him and said it again louder: “Crap!”
The problem was that things where getting out of control and she didn’t know what to do about it. First came the news that project 1701 was now public, and people were going to be watching every move they made. Secondly, the Federation had activated the Guard. Every licensed spacer was a member of the Federation Guard. It was like the old National Guard of the United States, a reserve military, it was a holdover from the colony’s brief war of independence from Earth. So now, instead of being called ‘captain’ because she was the chief pilot on a ship, it was a real rank. Watez held the honorary guard rank of Commander because she had a first class pilot license and her seniority. To most spacers this was a joke. but not anymore.
The Federation President gave a speech from her office in Clark City, saying that for the duration of the emergency she was activating the Guard, and pledged that the it would defend the Federation and Earth. She made matters worse in Watez's eyes by stating that she had ordered a Guard ship made ready to go to Epsilon using the new jump drive. As if all that wasn’t bad enough, the President had publicly named Watez the mission commander.
‘Christ on a mule, why not just give the whole system by home number while your at it?’ Watez thought, as she watched the speech. She estimated that it took all of ninety seconds for her personal communications channels to become jammed.
The problem with all this was that most people who lived on Luna and the Habitats did not think there was even an emergency. The Argo’s discovery of a wrecked alien Habitat ten light years away was cool and fun and natural to people who were born in space, or lived most of their lives there; but to the nutjobs on Earth - which Watez thought was most of the population - it was panic time. The really sad part was that if there really was an alien threat, the Guard could do nothing about it. The ships of the Guard were the everyday work ships of the Federation: cargo haulers, survey ships and pushers like the Leif Ericson (built to put small asteroids and comets on low energy orbits to the Lagrange points of Earth and Mars so they could be broken up to be used to make more Habitats, ships and anything else the space community needed). There were no weapons on them , the only thing that could be - and had been - used as a weapon was the linear accelerator on Luna, which was used to launch masses off the moon and into space. The only thing it could hit when it was used as a weapon was Earth itself, so it was useless for defending the planet from aliens.
“RP, make a note: the pusher legs need to be removed,” Watez said to Paulson
“Is that really necessary?” a new voice asked.
Watez turned around slowly,