Castle Roland

Book II - Global Explorer

by David McLeod


Chapter 39

Published: 21 Sept 15

Global Explorer II

by David McLeod

Only Jonathan Can Go To China

Global Explorer and
Beijing, China
September 10—18, 2018

Nicky and Davey were burning up and recreating condensed matter on the November circuit. And Nicky was blocking me. There was something he was not ready to tell me. I say, not ready because I trusted Nicky, and knew he would tell me when I needed to know. I hoped it was going to be a good surprise.

It was. On the 10th of September, he handed me a sheaf of papers.

"Alex? This is your itinerary. A Clipper will take you to Quito where the Becker B757 will meet you. The first leg of the trip is a little awkward, but you'll be able to sleep between Quito and Beijing. Oh, and you'll need UN uniforms including mess dress." Nicky could no longer hold his surprise, and burst with laughter.

"Fooled you good!" he said, when he was able to control himself.

"Jonathan's going to China," I said, grasping the secret.

Nicky nodded.

"You're not going with me?" I had felt that and some disappointment.

"Only as far as Quito," he said. "Mommy will meet me, there." Of course, when he said, Mommy, Nicky meant my Aunt Elizabeth, a one-time (and maybe current, for all we knew) CIA operative, and currently the CEO of Becker—the family's global construction corporation.

"Will you be safe?"

Nicky nodded. "It's another secret, but it's a good secret and not a dangerous one. Will you trust me?"

"Of course I will. Um, if I'm going to be in uniform, I'll need an aide-de-camp," I said, and thought furiously. "Can you add Ensign Randolph to the trip?"

Nicky thought he understood. "That will really pull his father's chain, won't it?"

"Probably," I said. "But that's not the reason. Macon probably knows more about politics than any of the Sea Cadets or UNSC officers, and I think he will learn more from this."

"You're too big to tickle," I said when we reached our bedroom. I hugged him, instead.

The crew of the B757 woke Macon and me at 0600 Beijing-local time after a solid nine hours sleep. We were about two hours from landing, giving us time to wake, shower, and consume breakfast as well as several cups of coffee.

The B757 landed in Beijing at 8:00 AM, and taxied to the terminal behind an IL9-300. Jonathan, I thought, and immediately felt both him and Davey. I realized that they both felt me, as well, and were anxious for a reunion. Has it been that long? I thought.

I had asked, without actually saying it, that Jonathan make nice with China, and give them hydrogen fusion power. Okay, I'm an Anconia, and what I meant was sell it. Of course, Jonathan was 51% owner, and what he did with his share was up to him. I owned the remaining 49%, and had pledged that as collateral for money that was going into hospitals and infrastructure in Russia.

After opening all those Swiss vaults plus the royalties he was getting from hydrogen plants that were springing up all over the world, I didn't think Jonathan really needed the money. Still, it gave him a lot of leeway in rebuilding his country.

Of course, I figured that once the Chinese got a hydrogen fusion plant, it would be only minutes before they tore it apart to learn all about the technology, and that after that, we'd never see any money. Still, it was a "do it because it is right" thing, and that was enough for me.

After the initial, formal ceremonies, Jonathan and I found time to be alone … after electronically sweeping the rooms he'd been assigned.

It took a lot of kisses before we could talk seriously, but Jonathan had some really serious things to say.

"You told me that only I could approach China," he said. "On the other hand—" he held out his copy of The White Crow. "On the other hand, it was also my ancestor's belief in friendships that crossed borders and beliefs that led me to this."

"I understand," I said. "Nicky will be sorry he didn't come. He's been reading The White Crow, too."

The meetings with the Chinese leadership were very formal, very stylized, and at times, very frustrating. On the other hand, as slow as things went, they went nearly non-stop from early morning until late night. Every time it looked as if agreement had been reached on a particular point, the Chinese injected something else.

One of the conditions was that we accept a dozen Chinese high school students on the Explorer.

Jonathan objected. "Commander Anconia is here as an observer." Immediately, he laughed and then said, "No one is fooled by that, are they?"

When the chairman smiled, I understood that Jonathan had won the negotiations. I was right. Things went much more smoothly, and Jonathan and the Chinese wrapped up embassies, exchange of diplomats, cultural exchange, telecommunications, and stamps. Yes, stamps, as in snail mail. Fortunately, both countries had staff who worked out the details. I put Macon in charge of getting the students and their luggage onto the B757 for our flight to Ecuador, and warning them about the carrier landing to come.

It was after the final and formal reception that Jonathan and I were surprised by an unexpected visitor.

The Chinese are a beautiful people, and the boy who came to the door was one of the most beautiful I'd ever seen. His blue-black hair hung straight down the back of his neck, and over his forehead. His short sideburns were an extension of his hair, and not of a beard, for his face was as smooth as if he were a baby. If he had any baby-fat, it was concealed by silken garb: loose shirt and pants, in dark blue, umber, and golden colors. He wore sandals. He was beautiful. I said that already, didn't I?

Davey answered the knock on the door, and surprised both Jonathan and me when he ushered the boy into the room without having spoken to him.

Davey turned to us. "This is Mandarin. He is in a bit of a quandary, for while he is Mandarin, from the Citrus reticulate tree, that name is also given to a class of bureaucrats in this country. He is somewhat torn between his loyalty to his brothers and his country."

Jonathan? I think you should be the one to welcome and reassure him, I sent.

Jonathan nodded, and accepted my thoughts. "Be welcome, son of China," he said. "Never believe that you must choose between your loyalty to your country and your loyalty to … the others of your kind who are allied with us. Your brothers elsewhere will tell you who Alexander, Davey, and I are, and will, I hope, assure you that we are committed to the same goals as they."

Washington Standard, September 15, 2018: Unlikely Alliance Visits China. It was no surprise to learn that Tsar Jonathan I Romanov had included Commander Alexander Anconia in his party when he decided to re-open relations between Russia and China. It is widely rumored that Anconia's hydrogen power plants were critical to the negotiations. What was surprising was the addition of United Nations Science Corps Ensign Macon Randolph, III a crewmember of the Anconia flagship, the Global Explorer. Ensign Randolph's father, Senator Macon Randolph, has made no secret of his enmity for the Anconias and their political allies, including the current president.

Almost as surprising as Ensign Randolph's inclusion was learning that he was on the Explorer in the first place, or that he had been commissioned in the UNSC.

Senator Randolph did not return our calls by press time.

Global Explorer and
Washington, DC
September 15, 2018

The Chinese controlled their media and all communication channels into and out of the country, so I wasn't surprised that nothing about the meeting reached the rest of the world until after the formal banquet. Nor was I surprised that Sciencetruth was one of the first to react.

&sciencetruthnolies: h-power does what opium and war could not do open relationships on an even footing

Nor was I surprised at Helen Thomas's first question to President Todd.

"Good morning, Mr. President. What can you tell us about the presence of the son of Senator Macon Randolph in the US delegation to China?"

You have to understand that the president knew all about the meeting: the Chinese couldn't block—didn't even know about—the N-Phones that Jonathan, Davey, and I carried. Second, you need to understand the relationship between Helen and the president. The tension that might have existed was tempered by a mutual respect, and they'd probably met for coffee before the press conference. Helen knew that Macon and I weren't an official US delegation, and Todd knew she was going to ask the question, and ask it that way.

"Good morning, Helen. I was very happy to learn that both Tsar Jonathan the First and Chairman Quin invited Americans to be observers at this historic meeting. And, although Senator Randolph and I may be political rivals, I share what must be his pride in his son, now an Ensign in the United Nations Science Corps and a crewmember of the Global Explorer, being one of those observers."

I sneaked a peek at Macon, and saw that he was not only blushing, but also grinning widely. I read his happiness at—sticking it to his father was the best interpretation I could put on it.

"I would be remiss," the president continued, "if I did not mention the benefit this will bring to the United States. You see, unlike many multinationals—and a few non-profit organizations I could mention—the Anconia company, which owns about half of the hydrogen power business, does not hide money in offshore accounts or avoid taxes by pencil-whipping its books to keep money out of the United States. They stand to make a great deal of money from both hydrogen power and trade with the Chinese, and they will pay taxes on their profits, to the benefit of all the people of the United States."

"Mr. President!" several reporters shouted. What was important had been said, however. I turned off the television.

Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC
September 15, 2018

"Goddamn that kid! He knew exactly what he was doing." Senator Randolph was livid. Literally. His face was red and his arms were shaking. He forced himself to relax. It was bad enough to lose control; worse to do it in front of people—none of whom was sure if "that kid" meant Randolph's son or Alexander Anconia.

"Are you sure there's nothing we can do?" he asked.

"Not while he's in China or on that ship," one of his aides said. "Once he returns to US soil, maybe."

"Maybe what?" the senator demanded.

"You've heard of those camps that cure boys of homosexuality? If we could get him into—"

"Goddamn it! He's not a queer!" Randolph shouted, and tried once again to control himself.

"No sir, I'm sorry, sir. But the same sort of thing could cure him of his seeming infatuation … "

"How soon can that happen?"

"Just a moment, sir." One of the men poked at his iPad.

"Their published mission profile does not extend beyond September 30 when they're scheduled to leave the Galapagos Islands."

"Keep on it," the senator ordered.

"Sir, I'm not sure we have anyone who could remove and transport the boy."

The senator wrote a phone number from memory onto a memo pad. "Call this number. Tell whoever answers that you work for me and ask for a meeting. Follow their instructions. Tell them what we want done. Agree to their price. The boy is not to be harmed."

_Global Explorer_
September 15, 2018

I'd overestimated the Chinese and underestimated our people in Montana. After the first two fusion cores the Chinese tried to take apart melted down in failsafe mode, they quit trying to understand the process. On the other hand, they weren't at all embarrassed about asking for replacements, and weren't upset when we said they had voided the warranty and would have to pay for them.

I had also underestimated Macon. He caught me after shift change, and asked for a meeting.

"Alex? You must know that I was happy to have embarrassed my father but, I have to know. Were you using me? I mean, for politics? I know that your dad and my father—"

"Oh f … I mean, oh, no way!" I interrupted. And then I stopped. Had I? Why did I ask him to go to China? Was it so the president could embarrass his father?

"Macon? I don't think so. I really don't think so. If I did, I didn't mean to. When I asked to include you, I did think about your dad being in politics, but I only thought that maybe you would want to learn more about politics. I don't really think I'm smart enough to be so sneaky that—"

Macon laughed a happy laugh. "Alex! All you had to say was no! I believe you."

He giggled. "And the guys have told me about how geeky you were at first, and how human you've come to be. I know they all trust you, and I do, to."

"Thank you, Macon. Nine months ago, when I landed on January 2, and was mobbed by kids, I thought that I'd been a geek for a long time, and was just beginning to be a person, and didn't want to be some sort of hero, like Francesca had made me. So, don't worry about thinking about me as a geek. I know it."

Macon looked puzzled for a moment, and then completely blew me out of the water.

"The cost is a kiss."

"Uh, Macon? I have a boyfriend."

"I know. But you said we were friends. Can't friends kiss, too?"

It was as sweet a non-sexual kiss as I'd ever had. Got to find … no, help him find … a boyfriend.

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