the president of the galactic federation was a tall man, with a dignified bearing.
his position was a precarious one, as talks with the saggitarian rebels had broken down, and his ability to restart the negotiations - or to continue prosecuting the war - was being called into question, even by certain factions of his own party.
the last thing he needed was anything resembling a scandal involving his daughter, that would attract the attentions of the gutter press.
or any attention at all from the gutter press.
the gutter press which he had tried so ineffectually to shut down.
so it had been with no small disingenuousness that he had replied “who?” when his secretary had announced lieutenant carlson.
he knew very well who lieutenant carlson was.
he was the young man who wanted to marry his daughter.
his daughter who had been nothing but a headache to him since before she was born.
now if the lieutenant had been a nice young man -
but that was the problem. there were no nice young men any more. the concept of a nice young man was obsolete.
nothing the president had learned about lieutenant carlson was reassuring. in fact he seemed a particularly obnoxious specimen, even for a member of the younger generation.
a particularly obnoxious specimen, with a particularly obnoxious and relentless gaze, which met the president’s without flinching.
the young man seemed quite insolently comfortable in the club chair across from the president’s desk.
the president looked down at the file folder on his desk, whose slim contents he had memorized.
“i see, lieutenant,” the president began, “that you are a member of a so-called elite unit known as the eagles.”
“there is nothing so-called about it, sir. the eagles are an elite unit - the most elite.”
the president glanced up. “ i meant no disrespect. i only meant that the term ”elite” is not an official designation.”
“that is as may be, sir. the eagles are still the elite of the elite.”
“no doubt.” the president flipped through a few pages from the folder. “i see that the motto of the eagles is ‘eagles go nine’. and that refers to -“ he glanced up at the lieutenant, inviting him to finish the sentence.
the lieutenant flushed slightly. “it means, sir , that when a cadet signs up with the eagles, he commits to go on nine missions - the deadliest, most dangerous missions in the whole of space - and that he can not resign his commission until he has completed them - if he survives the nine missions, that is.”
“that is what i understood. i also see in your file that you have been credited with seven missions - meaning, i assume, that you have two more to go. deadly, dangerous missions, eh?”
“yes, sir! and the missions are scheduled to get more dangerous as they progress.”
“quite. and i assume that if you were to marry my daughter you would still go ahead with these last two deadly, dangerous missions”
“of course, sir. eagles go nine!”
“and, marrying cynthia, you are comfortable with that?”
“i am, sir, and so is cynthia.”
the president nodded. he leaned back in his chair. “let me be frank, lieutenant. as we are both aware, i hold the title and position of president of the galactic federation. which sounds very grand. but there are still many things in this vast, mysterious and ever evolving universe that i do not know and probably never will know. and there are many things done in the galactic federation, and done in the name of the galactic federation, that i do not know and never will know. are you with me so far?”
lieutenant carlson shrugged. “yes, sir.”
“very good. now as i am sure you are well aware, there is some controversy about the eagles and other similar groups - controversy about the very nature of their endeavors. you know what i am referring to?”
the lieutenant flushed. “yes, sir, i do.”
“and the controversy is - “
“i would rather hear how you describe it, sir, with all due respect.”
“very well. there is a school of thought, not without influence in military circles, and especially among those concerned with the military budget, that the so-called missions of the eagles and similar units have no basis in reality - that they are simply what can be described in layman’s terms as virtual reality -
that are induced in the minds of the supposed combatants by chemical or enhanced video or other suggestive means - are in short, nothing but drug-induced dreams.”
the lieutenant’s eyes flashed fire, but he said nothing.
“what do you think of that?” the president asked.
“what do i think, sir? i think if you brought one of the lying bastards who say these things into this room right now, with all due respect, sir, i’d be happy to punch his fucking lights out!”
“indeed. well, i just thought we would have this little chat, to show that each of us know what we know. you are certain, then, that you will go on two more missions, regardless?”
“absolutely, sir. eagles go nine.”
“then there is nothing more to say. if cynthia wants to marry to you, i can’t stop her. that is all, lieutenant.”
while the president and lieutenant carlson had been having their talk, happy the clown had been wandering through the corridors of the galactic federation headquarters.
he approached the reception area of the president’s office.
“can i help you, sir?” the president’s secretary asked.
“i’m looking for my baby, but she can’t be found.”
“well. sir, i really don’t think you are going to find your baby in the office of the president of the galactic federation. might there be anything else?”
just then the door of the president’s office opened and lieutenant carlson appeared.
“what are you doing here, happy?” the lieutenant asked.
“i’m looking for my baby, lieutenant, but this nice lady says she’s not here.”
“she is not here,” the secretary repeated firmly.
“i’ll take care of this,” lieutenant carlson assured her. he took happy by the arm. “come on, happy, let’s get out of here. let’s go somewhere where we are more appreciated.”
the secretary watched the lieutenant and the clown disappear down the corridor.
back in the office, the president gazed glumly out of his wide window.
that did not go particularly well, he thought, but it could have been worse.
what did cynthia, pea brained as she was, see in that oaf?
the president sighed. it never ceased to amaze him that with all the advances of science - intergalactic flight, parallel realities, time travel and all the rest of it, that the mystery of woman remained unsolved.