At age 28, Captain Susi Raynard-Velas was the youngest captain to be given command in the BSTA fleet. Although her mother was Fleet Admiral, no one begrudged her the commission. Everyone knew how much Susi had worked for it. No other Ã¢â¬ËBoot CampÃ¢â¬â¢ graduate had spent as much time attending BSTA Academy classes.
The BSTA Iron Albatross, fourth chartered BSTA Albatross mining vessel, was assigned to her command June 20th 584 PR/5 BS. Captain Raynard-Velas was introduced to the ship at Beldor V Orbital Docking Facility on the 34th of that month. According to the terms of her commission she was under the command of Mining Admiral Kif Davis of Gamma Mining Operations, BSC. The hard, fine lettering of the GMO logo was already painted on the plasti-metal hull of the Iron Albatross. GMO was the first competitor to Mining Admiral Norm FrankÃ¢â¬â¢s Mining & Extraction, BSC. The Captain was glad not to have been assigned to M&E. Had she been, she knew that she would almost definitely broken away to GMO, had they offered. She was certain Kif Davis, a 45-year old ex-Jewelry salesperson, had requested her specifically to command GMOÃ¢â¬â¢s first vessel.
Kif Davis walked into the ODFÃ¢â¬â¢s Main Meeting Facility only ten minutes after she had. Kif smiled her warmest smile and took SusiÃ¢â¬â¢s hand. Ã¢â¬ÅThank you for working for me, Captain,Ã¢â¬Â she said.
Ã¢â¬ÅI feel that the pleasure is all mine, Admiral Davis. I know certainly that I will be much happier working for you than for Admiral Frank.Ã¢â¬Â
Kif blushed and brushed her hand as if pushing the title away, Ã¢â¬ÅPlease call me Kiffy, IÃ¢â¬â¢m still not used to the title yet. IÃ¢â¬â¢m afraid it is mostly an honorary one.Ã¢â¬Â
Susi smiled, Ã¢â¬ÅI heard you went through the three-year program just like anyone else.Ã¢â¬Â
Kif smiled, Ã¢â¬ÅYes, but I got my Admiralty mostly through my intrepid business skills. You see, IÃ¢â¬â¢ve run Gamma Jewelry since before you were born. At first it was a franchise of the much larger Gamma Jewelry Corporation, but during the ten-year interim I have re-engineered my company completely. GJ is now a division of GMO BSC.Ã¢â¬Â
SusiÃ¢â¬â¢s brow creased, Ã¢â¬ÅSo GJ is to be the storefront for GMOÃ¢â¬â¢s operations?Ã¢â¬Â
Kif laughed, Ã¢â¬ÅNot exclusively. It will be a storefront, but not the storefront. From the way I see it, GJ will be only a pithy side business from now on.Ã¢â¬Â
The Beldor V ODF is the largest in the system with a total of nine rails. With the new stealth software, the rails were no longer fixed destination and could be switched to any other rail destination needed at the moment. Docking positions were another problem altogether. Beldor had nothing similar to Sol systemÃ¢â¬â¢s Drydock Facility. Plans were underway to build a comparable docking complex, but until then the BSTA Train Yard was doubling as a temporary docking facility.
The Main Meeting Facility of the ODF was an extension wing added during the height of BeldorÃ¢â¬â¢s traffic. The main corridor, in which the two women were standing, had a large dramatic view of all nine rails. The closest visible train was the BSTA Iron Albatross on the deactivated 5 Rail. They watch as the 3 Rail faded into existence, establishing a temporary link to somewhere else in the system before fading back to near nothingness, this time with a new train in its grasp. The furthest away is the 1 Rail. 1 Rail had been converted into a pair of secondary rails to create a duplex data stream. Both of the Rails were constantly flickering as they changed destinations. Susi had spent six months as Fireman of Beldor VÃ¢â¬â¢s Data Processing Facility and had spent time putting together the code for it. She was proud of the fact that the Beldor System now has more throughput and speed than much of ATS ever had.
Kif touched SusiÃ¢â¬â¢s shoulder and said to her, Ã¢â¬ÅSheÃ¢â¬â¢s beautiful.Ã¢â¬Â
Susi nodded, Ã¢â¬ÅI always thought that about the trains.Ã¢â¬Â
Ã¢â¬ÅWell, letÃ¢â¬â¢s board her already,Ã¢â¬Â Kif said, with a slight hint of anticipation.
As they walked to the loading platform of 5 Rail, they caught a better glimpse of the train that just arrived on 3 Rail. Kif, who knew Susi was obviously her better when it came to trains, whistled and asked her, Ã¢â¬ÅIs that the BSTA Riffington?Ã¢â¬Â
Susi knew immediately where to glance for the serial number and name markings on the train. Ã¢â¬ÅNo, itÃ¢â¬â¢s the Torgamous.Ã¢â¬Â
They both stared at the train. The BSTA Riffington and the BSTA Torgamous were the first (and most likely only) ships of the BSTA Diplomat class. The Diplomat class was designed to be a sister class to the ATS Statesman class and was internally similar in luxury. Externally it was much smaller and sleeker, while retaining much of the shielding. If there was one thing the BSTAÃ¢â¬â¢s designers learned, it was that shielding was your best friend, and so many of the BSTA classes had more shielding than their ATS counterparts. The Diplomat classÃ¢â¬â¢ look and feel was more than purely aesthetic. By showing that they could build from scratch Statesman-like trains, which many people will recognize as once the very symbol of luxury. The Diplomat trains had just been completed in the BSTA Train Yards, and were to be ambassador trains to reconnect ties with the State of BeldorÃ¢â¬â¢s neighbors.
Kif smiled and said, Ã¢â¬ÅIÃ¢â¬â¢d just love to take a ride in it one day.Ã¢â¬Â
A male voice laughed behind them, Ã¢â¬ÅSo would almost everybody else.Ã¢â¬Â
Susi turned toward the voice and instantly recognized its owner, Ã¢â¬ÅCaptain Quince, I didnÃ¢â¬â¢t realize you were behind us.Ã¢â¬Â
Captain John Quince was one of those guys who exuded youth, no matter how old they were. Quince had grown up navigating Beldor IVÃ¢â¬â¢s harsh waters, and at age 40 decided to take to the calmer rails. Ã¢â¬ÅI just came out of one of the meeting rooms. My apologies for startling you two.Ã¢â¬Â
Kif shook her head, Ã¢â¬ÅDonÃ¢â¬â¢t worry about it.Ã¢â¬Â
Quince shrugged, Ã¢â¬ÅIf you say soÃ¢â¬Â¦ Admiral. Captain Raynard-Velas, have you been given your commission, yet?Ã¢â¬Â
Ã¢â¬ÅYes,Ã¢â¬Â Susi admitted, Ã¢â¬Åas a matter of fact, IÃ¢â¬â¢ve been given command of the BSTA Iron Albatross for Gamma Mining Operations, BSC. Kiffy, here, is to be my direct superior. How about you, have they finally figured out what to do with you, Quince?Ã¢â¬Â
Quince chuckled, Ã¢â¬ÅIt took them long enough, but they have found me a place. I am to command the BSTA Torgamous in its trip to the Algran system.Ã¢â¬Â
John Pullman had purchased Beldor II with his design commission checks from Automated Train Systems. The planet was fairly dinky, but inhabitable, and John had turned it into nomadÃ¢â¬â¢s paradise. His heat-shielded Studio gave John an impressive view of the lava flows that he felt were so soothing. Beldor II didnÃ¢â¬â¢t have a breathable atmosphere, and the atmosphere it did have was thin and small. JohnÃ¢â¬â¢s Rail facility was simply a tower that extended far enough out of the small planetÃ¢â¬â¢s gravity well.
Five years ago, when the Beldor Space Transit Authority began reopening intra-system rails, he was surprised when his secondary began to shimmer. John had never kept a permanent connection to any of the system ODFs, and didnÃ¢â¬â¢t think anyone knew his rail coordinates, other than the Emergency Protocol System (EPS), which was a computer system run by Automated Train System. Just as Beldor IV and V had received messages regarding the network shutdown, so had he. He had consigned himself to lonely death even before the shutdown, so for him it was mere icing on the cake.
The discovery of JohnÃ¢â¬â¢s Beldor II was even more of a surprise to the Data Processing Facility team. They had been untangling the EPS protocols and data packets from archives of the network shutdown in an attempt to gain more control of the existing rail facilities as they began development of their own Rail Control Software.
John Pullman had been the interior designer of the ATS Statesman class trains. Upon learning this, BSTA immediately commissioned him to design their Diplomat class. John spent six days at the BSTA Train Yards and helped in any way he could. Two weeks later he submitted from his Studio the plans to the interior of the Diplomat. He had insured that the Train Yards were capable of producing it. He had also designed the interior to fit within a couple of modified Falcon-class hulls, allowing for a slightly faster production time.
However, even with all the work he put into making the trains easy to manufacture, it would still take 5 year before both Diplomat trains were ready for flight.