“I rather expected more hustle and bustle Mr. Hunt.” Ambassador Eloise Jones' accent was subtle but enough to pinpoint her as a Brit of some sort. “Where is everyone?”
“Your visit took us by surprise Ambassador, you'll have to forgive us for not mustering up the usual fan fare.” James Hunt smiled at his guest on the outside but was cursing on the inside. For over and hour she'd been poking and prodding about the lack of reception it seemed and had no intention of giving it up. “I confess myself impressed ma'am, in your ability to cut through the red tape as quickly as you did. This facility has been kept secret for years in order to protect it and it takes months of screenings and approvals to get access for even one day usually.”
Eloise smiled coyly at him. “Well I meet people in my line of work – friends with powerful scissors to cut through that tape.” she pretended to cut through the air with her fingers. “Snip snip.” she added with a wink.
“Right.” James said, resisting the impulse to roll his eyes at her. “Well, much of the staff is spending these final weeks with family before the launch. Those slotted to be on board will return just days before for final medical checks and the like.”
“And you sir? No family for you to visit before a year in space?”
The question was innocent enough but James felt it slice through him like a hot knife through butter. “I won't be on the flight ma'am.” he replied, forcing a stoic expression onto his face as she turned her attention toward him.
She scrutinized his face for a moment before frowning. “I was under the impression you were meant to command the mission Mr. Hunt. Is this not your ship?”
“My design ma'am yes. Although, to be fair to all our engineers, Unity has changed a fair bit since I laid my pencil to paper and sketched her out.” James said. It was the truth of course. Years before, during the war, he'd sketched out a design for a deep space vessel on a lark and then forgotten all about it for a time. It wasn't until an old colleague came knocking that he even thought of her again. It had taken months to flesh that little passing thought into something technologically sound. Even after all his work, once it was in the hands of other engineers, they'd pulled the girl apart and completely made her over. But her heart – the engines – those would always be his.
“Then why?” the Ambassador's question yanked him from his thoughts and landed him, miserably, right back into the here and now.
“Why what Ambassador Jones?”
“Why won't you be on the flight. Surely you, of all people, would know this vessel better than most.” she ventured further.
James Hunt sighed and tapped his chest. “I've been medically disqualified ma'am, they're worried my heart – which is perfectly fine for life on Earth – would not be so fine for a year in deep space.”