Olyver inhaled the aromas wafting up from the food arrayed before him. As he extracted the silverware from his napkin, the triumvir licked his lips. Olyver dragged the knife's edge along the tines of his fork, stopping when the plate slid across the table. He followed the motion, discovering two men and a woman occupying the opposite bench. Olyver's eyes darted among the trio and the exit as the utensils tumbled out of his grip, clattering on the table.
As the clanging settled, the woman bent down, taking a deep inhalation. "This chef can do marvelous things."
"Ur... Ursula..." Olyver stuttered. As his hands flew together. "It's a pleasure to see you."
She reached out and plucked the fallen utensils and sliced off a bite. "If that's true, you wouldn't be shaking so badly," she purred as a wicked smile took hold at the edges of her lips. "But since you never contacted us, we decided we needed to come and visit you."
"Nonsense," Olyver insisted as he forced himself deeper into the booth. "It's just a surprise to find you here."
The woman popped the morsel into her mouth and started chewing.
As she leaned back, the man to her left folded his hands under his chin. "The colonization efforts are not progressing quickly enough for our liking."
Olyver squirmed under the intense glare of the three figures. "Jeras, I'm doing everything I can."
"Why hasn't another ship been launched?" Randall asked.
Ursula popped more of the food into her mouth and bounced her fork towards Randall.
"Isaac insisted on an alternate design," Olyver blurted.
"We're aware of the problems that plagued the initial model," Ursula replied, slicing a fresh bite.
"We don't have a problem with the redesign," Jeras added.
Ursula waved the utensil around musing, "There should have been crafts ready to seed the moons of Aurora Three."
"The orbital dock can construct four of the colonization vessels," Randal commented.
"So, why weren't multiple ships prepared?" Ursula asked as she popped the bit of food into her mouth.
"Quinn and Caitlin refuse to bend!" Olyver retorted. "They reject anything to further our goals."
Ursula looked down at the plate and pushed the half-eaten meal back towards Olyver. "You've stumbled through certain aspects of our plans. Which makes us wonder if this is all just an elaborate game or if you're as dangerous to our ideas as Malark."
"You remember what happened to your predecessor?" Jeras inquired.
As a shudder raced down his spine, Olyver stammered, "I recall."
"Keep that in mind," Ursula stated as she urged Ronald to get up. "Because you are replaceable."
Olyver slumped in his chair as his constituents departed the restaurant.
"Why am I meeting with you?" Lambert asked, walking towards Olyver.
"I am spearheading the colonization effort," Olyver replied, gesturing toward an empty seat. "I'm hoping you have news about the vessels facilitating that endeavor."
Lambert sat down, answering, "The latest simulations appear to be stable, according to Isaac."
"That's excellent," Olyver answered. He rose from his desk and walked towards the window and looked out into the night sky. "When will you begin work on the redesigned colonization ships?"
"The plan is to stagger their construction, but we should start the initial superstructure in a few months."
Olyver spun, glaring down his nose at the engineer. "I'm not looking for a staggered production. I want all four holds to construct the vessels required to finish seeding this system."
"Two of the births are dedicated to building escort ships."
Olyver slammed his hand on his desk, rattling a stack of devices. "We're limiting ourselves to this solar system! We don't require them!"
Lambert clenched his fists as his face contorted with anger. He took a series of deep breaths and calmed his features. "The intention is to reserve those crafts for the push towards distant systems. I have my orders."
Olyver's finger tapped against his desk. "How quickly will those be completed?"
"Because I want all four holds to focus on the colonization ships," Olyver replied as he turned to study the night's sky.
"That decision needs to come from the Triumvirate," Lambert said as he rose. "And the last I checked, neither Quinn nor Caitlin agree with you. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's pressing work that requires my attention."
Olyver stared out of the window and listened to the door click shut. He took a deep breath, muttering, "It looks like I'll be talking with Caitlin."
Olyver knocked on a plain panel and waited.
Eventually, a voice piped through the speaker, "Who's there?"
"It's Olyver," he replied. "I need to talk with you about the colonization effort."
The entrance slid open as Caitlin cinched her robe together. "Couldn't this wait till morning?"
"Can I come in?" Olyver asked, waving his hands around the hallway. "Or will our conversation be held to anyone lingering in the hall?"
Caitlin sucked in a breath and took a step into her home, flapping an arm. "Fine, but this better be brief."
"Thank you," Olyver said as he entered her dwelling. When the door closed, he leaned against it and folded his arms across his chest. "We need to expedite our colonization efforts."
Caitlin buried her eyes into a hand. "We've talked about this. We have too many needs to justify focusing on expanding to unknown worlds."
"The population is over-saturating this planet," Olyver said, rubbing his mouth. He glanced through his fingers, adding, "And that's taking the exodus to Soloran into account. If we don't increase the production of the colonization vessels, the advancements you've overseen will be for naught."
Biting her lower lip, Caitlin sighed. "Fine, I'll talk with Quinn about shifting our priorities once the escort ships are completed."
"That would be perfect," Olyver replied. He turned around and opened the door. "Thank you for seeing me."
"Have a pleasant evening," Caitlin said, offering a curt nod.
"I will eagerly await the official compromise."
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The crew of the colony ship, Aurora, is finishing up their work on the newest colony for the Federation when their platform fails to connect. They rally around each other, deciding to start a new federation knowing that devastation is the only reaso...