"Einstein was wrong!"
The words exploded from the dark-haired octogenarian’s mouth as he put both hands on the conference table and loomed over the much younger man seated across from him. He lifted one hand from the tabletop and pointed a gnarled forefinger at his guest. “And you,” he made a fist and pointed his thumb at his own chest, “and me are gonna use that minor fact to save humanity from itself!” Daniel Woodhouse Snyder slammed his hand down on the table and looked defiant, as though begging for an argument.
Captain Anderson Winchester Lovett, of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces (Space), didn't appear to be in an argumentative mood nor did he seem to be intimidated in the least by the richest man in the world. Instead, he put his elbows on the table and made a steeple of his fingers, resting his square chin on the tips. His blue eyes stared with interest at Daniel Snyder, his bushy eyebrows almost meeting above the bridge of his nose. He had responded to the call from Snyder's secretary for a meeting more out of curiosity than anything else: there had been very little substance in the initial call; just a simple, "Mr. Snyder would like to meet with you."
The cavernous conference room on the fifth floor of Snyder Enterprises’ ultra-modern-style headquarters building was more of a library than anything else. Books—actual, honest-to-goodness books—lined the walls from floor to ceiling and the pungent smell of leather and old paper permeated the room. The huge, nine-meter-long, Mahogany conference table sparkled as the gleaming surface reflected the recessed ceiling lights. Each of the 26 chairs around the table was upholstered in actual leather. The room was a not-so-subtle statement of the financial status of Snyder Enterprises.
Anderson wore civilian clothes to the meeting instead of the uniform he had worn for 30 years. He had always thought he looked sharp in the black pants, the black tunic with its gold trim and the light-blue beret atop his closely cut brown hair. It was an opinion shared not only by his wife and his children (although they would rather chew glass than admit it), but also quite a few of his female acquaintances. A veteran shuttle pilot, he had more than 750 flights to his credit, taking supplies, people and equipment up to the two moon bases (Base Heinlein and Base Clarke) and to the space stations at Lagrange Point 4 and Lagrange Point 5 (simply called L-4 and L-5).
Ensign Lovett, fresh out of the United Nations Peacekeeping Academy, had begun his career as the junior shuttle pilot doing the usual mind-numbing duties awarded brand-new ensigns. It did not take long, however, for his superiors to recognize his ability to get intractable machinery and recalcitrant people to do his bidding. He had been fast-tracked through the ever-dangerous political landmines of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces (Space)—usually referred to by its initials, UNPF(S)—by an ever-growing number of influential mentors until he was appointed Commander, White Sands Shuttle Base—the man in charge of all shuttle operations, shuttle pilots and shuttle maintenance in the UNPF(S). He was at the pinnacle of his career.
Should he be promoted to Commodore and the giddy heights of Flag rank (and such a promotion was a certainty rather than just a possibility), he would wind up as just another desk jockey, chained to a desk and an office with an obsequious assistant and a view out a window (maybe). He was not sure he would survive the honor.
At 188 centimeters and 100 kilos, Anderson pushed the upper height and weight limits for a shuttle pilot. Neither circumstance, however, had kept him from spending every possible second he could in a cockpit, although lately the cramped conditions of a “Round Robin,” a single flight to both moon bases and both space stations, would leave him stiff and sore for several days after touchdown—a subtle reminder that he was inexorably slipping into his fifties.
“And exactly how are we going to do that, Mr. Snyder?” Anderson’s emphasis on “we” was obvious.
“We’re going to gather together a few thousand of our closest friends and neighbors and get the hell off this dying, God-forsaken, never-to-be-sufficiently-damned planet. That’s how!”
“And exactly where are we going?” Anderson asked, again with heavy emphasis placed on the word “we.”
“And exactly how are we going to get ‘out there’?”
Snyder smiled, leaned forward and in a voice suited to a conspiracy whispered, “That brings us back to Einstein, doesn’t it? You see—” His voice grew even softer, “—you can travel faster than light.”