The USS Benjamin Franklin
The launch finally took place in April 2040 from Richmond, Virginia. The ship was supposed to be part of the Operation Prodigal Son, the first significant mission of the newly created USLONGCOM. For the occasion, a big ceremony, including a speech from President Cowley was organized with the six brand new ships hovering above their heads.
Their mission consisted to record every Joker, sample new life forms, locate all the colonies scattered across the US Aegis, count the pioneers and remind them that they were all Americans. Their final destination being Valhalla where, recently, some rebel colonies had proclaimed their independance from the US government.
Four Waters City
Their mission consisted to record every Joker, sample life forms, locate all the colonies scattered across the US Aegis, count the pioneers and remind them that they were all Americans. Their final destination being Valhalla where, recently, some rebel colonies had proclaimed their independance from the US government.
A few weeks after the send-off, the ‘’Franklin’’ found itself in the town of Four Waters City where the locals, who seemed happy to see them, organized a mass lunch for the entire dirigible's fifty-person crew.
When walking along the main street, guided by the mayor, Maggie Kauffman sensed that the woman was nervous. She thought at first that it was because of the cannabis stands she saw in some of the gardens, in open view.
Maggie then tried to reassure her by saying that the Navy were not cops and were only here to help. When asked if there was something more, Mayor Robinson told Captain Kauffman about two crimes that were commited in the town.
A week before the Franklin's arrival, nine years old Angela Hartmann was in her bedroom when a man called Roderick Bacon broke into her room and gave her drugs in the form of a highly addictive and hallucinogenic flower. Angela’s father found her in her bedroom, vomiting and fitting, and beat Roderick to death while the junkie was pleading for his life and telling that an angel told him to do it.
After that, Angela ended up in a coma and took days to come out of it and her father was kept in the stone ice house the town was building, having not felt it necessary to build a jail before. Maggie asked Mayor Robinson if they contacted the Datum authorities but she replied that they were scared since they didn’t register their presence with the government properly.
The ship’s Captain then advised her to register properly with the Datum and that they would help with that. She also wanted the ship’s chief surgeon Joe Mackenzie to take a look at the girl.
Mac came out of the Hartmanns’s house with a dark expression on his face. Maggie was waiting for him ouside the house. He told her that the girl might never be the same and would like to have her on the ship for further observation. The two of them, with XO Nathan Boss who took a statement from Hartmann and Roderick Bacon’s wife, headed for the Mayor’s office where they met with Mayor Robinson and a few chosen citizens to tell them the verdict.
Maggie gave the assembly a quick summary of the facts, also informed them that the girl would spend the night aboard the Franklin for observation. Then she told them that they would file a report to the Datum police and advised them to create the equivalent of a county court with the neighbouring communities. She concluded by asking Nathan Boss to burn the flowers and to make sure that they took samples before.
The same night, back on the ship, Maggie and Mac reflected on how it was only the beginning of their journey, dreading what might wait for them in the other worlds.
With that in mind, the twain stopped unannounced to make themselves and their mission known at a town called Reboot on Earth West 101,754 where they dropped a small group of Navy and Marines led by Nathan Boss, who were in charge of a ground team for the first time. The town being part of a ‘county’ spread over several neighbouring worlds, the ship stepped away to visit each of the other communities.
Unfortunately for them, they soon found out that their equipment has been dropped in Earth West 101,752 and that none of them brought a Stepper. Fact that infuriated Lieutenant Sam Allen, in charge of the Marines.
As if having no equipment was not enough, they were stranded in the middle of the forest surrounding the town with no idea of where to head. They finally reached the town with the help of Bill Lovell, a local who was just happening to pass by, and were brought to the house of Jack Green, one of the person who took part in Valhalla’s “Declaration of Independence".
After some exchanges between Jack Green and Sam Allen, about how Green rejected the Datum government the militaries were representing and how he didn’t want to accept money from them, the inhabitants of Reboot using a currency called favours, Allen snapped and wanted to cuff Green but was stopped by Nathan.
Maggie heard of what happened from Nathan and got Sam Allen off her ship as soon as she could. Then she met with Jack Green to hear about those favours.
Not long after their visit to Reboot, the Franklin was ordered to backtrack to the Mine Belt where some idiot shot some trolls. Maggie had the impression that smart people didn’t come in large quantities across the Long Earth.
They arrived in a world some seventy thousand steps from the Datum in a stepwise version of Houston, Texas where they saw a kind of rough campsite from above with a solitary figure looking at them. Mac drew her attention to an infrared image of the forest neaby showing a pile of cooling forms, where the bodies have been stashed.
When they reached the campsite, the woman who were there offered them coffee and went straight to business saying she didn’t want them here and wasn’t the one who called them since she could take care of this on her own.
When prompted by Nathan about the identity of the person who called them, Sally replied that it was one of the scientists who shot the trolls, that she let go, who asked for help. The men were biologists who tried to enforce a cross-breeding experiment on trolls who ran away and where shot dead, leaving an orphaned cub behind.
Mac told Sally that it didn’t justify a vigilante action from her but she replied that they were not dead but where stashed nearby. Maggie, feeling like she needed to ease the tension took Sally apart, saying she knew about her and that she was the woman who traveled across the Mark Twain ten years ago.
Sally told her that she knew about her and her mission as well but since she thought she was one of the less stupid twain Captain on this operation, she suggested her to get trolls aboard her ship. She even showed her a troll-call and said she could get one for her from the manufacturer.
Maggie, surprised at first, still asked Sally to get her a troll-call just in case. Back on the ship, since she was monitored during the all time and her officers heard everything, Nathan told her they should have arrested Sally on the spot while Mac told her she was crazy to even consider bringing trolls aboard the Franklin. Maggie reacted by asking Mac to find her troll experts.
It took him a couple of days searching on the outernet to come up him a number of universities who had studied trolls in the wild. This proved too dry to Maggie who preferred people who lived with trolls and didn't know them just as test subjects.
This is how she ended up taking a ride in a commercial twain to Madison West 5, to visit Dr Christopher and Juliet Pagel’s rescue center for maltreated and abandoned big cats where they were using an extended family of trolls to help with the business.
There she learned a lot about the trolls and slowly she came to a decision. She realized that Sally Linsay was right and that the military needed to show that they could live in harmony with the other species of the Long Earth. In the end, she brought back a family of three trolls, named Jake, Marjorie and Carl by the Pagels, with her on the Franklin.
The crew started to argue at first but, by the end of the first week, got used to stop working at twilight every day as the big loading bay doors were lowered so the troll family could participate in the long call.
When the twain showed up, all the town showed up to welcome them. The townsfolks were quite surprise to see that a family of troll followed the militaries down the gangway. Maggie had been brief that this town was a locust of hate towards trolls but change had to start somewhere.
She brought the trolls with her at the mayor’s office where she was offered coffee. When she finished the coffee, she asked Carl to wash the mug. The young troll applied himself to wash it and carefully put it to dry on the rack. When he came back, Maggie rewarded him with a peppermint. All this in front of mayor who looked in astonishement with blank eyes.
It was the first day of a stay that was supposed to last several days where they would give ride to the town’s children and let the older ones play with the trolls, under heavy supervision.
On the second day, the crew went on the alert as a commercial twain appeared above the town. The ship’s Captain requested to meet up with Maggie in her sea cabin. When they met, after Nathan showed him the way, the Captain gave her a package and told her that they got detoured a lot from their usual route to deliver this package and that the famous Douglas Black himself of the Black Corporation wanted to assure her that there was nothing in the package to harm her of the ship and that instructions could be found inside.
Maggie felt like a kid in front of his Christmas present and couldn’t wait to open it. When the man was gone, she took the package outside, at Nathan’s suggestion, for extra safety, to open it. Inside she found a troll-call, more complex than the one Sally Linsay had, and a set of instructions hand-signed by a "G. Abrahams".
She couldn’t wait to try it and quickly dismissed Nathan. She headed for the observation deck where the trolls were huddled half-asleep and pointed the troll-call toward Jake. She was surprised to hear a synthetic human male voice from the direction of Jake but got the confirmation that the device worked.
She then pointed the troll-call to Marjorie who was telling the other trolls that the ‘female with no mate’ was looking at them. Maggie understood that she was talking about her and used the ocarina to introduce herself properly. The device translated her words in troll language and suddenly they all snapped to attention and were all staring at her with their eyes wide and their mouth open.
Marjorie then tried to find a suitable label for Maggie and came up with ‘grandmother’ to the ship Captain’s despair since most of the crew was younger than her. She boldly approached the family and confirmed that the ship was her home.
The female troll held her hand and cuddled her. It was how she was found the next morning by a crewman who came to unwound her from the sleeping trolls. By breakfast, every crewmember knew how she had spent the night. She let them play with the troll-call during the day and, in the evening, told the crew to leave the exhausted trolls alone.
Around the end of May 2040, trolls had had enough of the way humans treated them and began to desert the Earths with a significant human presence in them. 
Around June 2040, the Franklin was summoned to the town of New Purity, home of a sect called the Uncut Brethren, after another incident with trolls, some hundred thousand steps East from Valhalla. The place had a church, as expected, but no stockade. A closer examination showed some kind of charnel pit not far.
The whole town, all dressed uniformly in drab woolen smocks, showed up to greet them and were hospitable enough until Jake and his family came down the ramp. A young man approached Maggie to tell her they didn’t allow the trolls, that hey considered unclean creatures, on their lands.
Irritated, Maggie looked at the man’s face and saw grief. She calmly replied that Jake was not a creature. After some consideration, the man dared Jake to say it itself. At this moment, Maggie felt a pressure on her arm, it was Jakei trying to say something. She beckoned Nathan, who was carrying the troll-call.
Jake then told Maggie that the young man was sad and someone who was close to him was gone. Hearing those words coming from the ocarina made the Brethren stare at the troll. After this demonstration, Maggie ordered the man to tell her what happened.
Between his sobs and his apologies, Maggie managed to get a picture of what happened. A bit of forensics from Mac and the science department confirmed that elves attacked the community. The members of the Uncut Brethren started to open fire when a group of trolls got caught in the crossfire. The humans not knowing the difference between an elf and a troll fired at both species.
Maggie showed Carl, who was playing with toys surrounded by children, to Brother Geoffrey and told him that it wasn't trolls who attacked them and if they wanted to survive in the Long Earth they had to understand the reality of it. Bringing back trolls to there community would help them to clear their fields, dig wells and deter elves.
The grieving young man struggled to accept this but finally asked how they could bring back the trolls. Maggie told him to be nice to them for starters then suggested they bury the dead trolls next to their own dead as a sign of respect. Pretty soon, thanks to the long call, every troll would know about this gesture.
The crew of the Franklin helped the townsfolks to build a stockade and dig cellars as an anti-step precaution. They stayed two more days before taking off.
Once, in the Corn Belt, they encountered a British twain, the Sir George Cayley, coming back from an expedition to Iceland. British ships had the best booze to Maggie's opinion. The crews of both ships boarded each other's dirigeable and raised a toast to His Majesty together.
Unfortunately, most of their stops were not as enjoyable. One of their assignments led them to a world some seven hundred thousand steps of the Datum where a wannabe silver miner, who only learned excavation techniques from the movies, trapped himself in his mine shaft. Luckily, Midshipman Jason Santorini has spent some of his earyl years caving and managed to dig his way to the man.
After the rescue operation was over, Maggie gave the crew a couple of days of shore leave. On the second day, she was having lunch on the ground, under the shadow of the Franklin, with her senior officers and Midshipman Santorini, rewarded for his efforts, when a commercial twain appeared on the horizon.
The ship landed not far from the Franklin and lowered a ramp from where an elderly woman and a middle-aged man, followed by a white cat, emerged. Maggie and her officers stood up to meet them. The cat sniffed the air and wandered in the direction of the Franklin.
The man told Maggie he was happy to finally meet her in the flesh and introduced himself as George Abrahams and the woman as his wife Agnes. To Maggie, his face was oddly neutral and expressionless but his name sounded familiar. She asked how they found them, since it was a military vessel, and what did they want with her.
Abrahams innocently told her that they followed her through outernet communiqués posted by civilians and that he wanted to meet her concerning the troll-calls. The mention of the troll-calls helped Maggie remember that "George Abrahams" was the name written on the instructions sheet delivered with her troll-call.
He confirmed with pride that he was the designer of the troll-call and was here to deliver in person fifteen more of them for her and her crew. She replied that they would gladly accept the gifts, after the mandatory security checks, and asked if he was associated with the Black Corporation. Abrahams answered that the Black Corporation founded his work and had a partnership with him but he still was indenpendant and had his own workshop.
Suspicious, Maggie asked why Douglas Black would give once again technological gifts for free. The civilian replied that Douglas Black believed that releasing this technology would help, in the long term, to heal the degrading relationship between humans and trolls and started to rant about how wonderful the trolls were.
He was interrupted by his wife who reminded him that they already did what they came to do and that there were no need to try to convince Maggie of the usefulness of trolls. The elderly couple then boarded their ship and left. It was only at that moment that Mac noticed that the cat was missing.
On their way back to the Corn Belt, they stopped in a stepwise Nebraska to supervise what the locals called a 'hootenanny', a mixture between a marriage market, a farmers' auction, a rock concert and a Hell's Angels gathering. The mere presence of the ship dissuaded people to start trouble.
Maggie took that opportunity to ask Harry Ryan, the chief engineer of the ship, to run a system check. As she was reading Harry's report in her sea cabin, Maggie felt like she was being watched. She looked up and saw George Abrahams's cat looking at her.
The cat opened his mouth and said some incomprehensible words in a female voice to Maggie's surprise. The cat then apologized, in English, saying that George and Agnes Abrahams used her to practice their Swahili and that it had became her default setting. Maggie then recalled that the legend said that Joshua Valienté had a talking cat and made the connection. To her surprise, she was even having a conversation with the cat.
The feline told Maggie that she was fully equipped to assist the Franklin in their mission and told her that turbine two was developing a flaw and one of the crew’s bathroom had a faulty flush. Maggie went around her desk, grab the cat, set her on her desk and called Harry on her comms panel to ask him if he had anything to report on turbine number two. The engineer replied that the turbine was good but Maggie insisted that he did a second check.
While Harry was making verifications on the turbine, Maggie interrogated the cat which turned out to be named Shi-mi, which is the Tibetan for cat, was an artificial lifeform and another gift from Dr George Abrahams.Shi-mi apologized for sneaking in inside the ship but argued that Maggie would have refused her reflexively.
At that moment, Maggie’s comms panel came to life, it was Harry Ryan confirming that turbine number two was presenting a flaw that would only appear in a few days and had a risk a failure increasing every day. He also advised to strip down the turbine in dry dock and apologized for not spotting the problem earlier.
The Captain told him that he didn’t need to apologize and ask him to tell Nathan to find them an itinerary to the Datum. Shi-mi, feeling like she passed the audition, asked if she could bring the occasional mouse to Maggie. The officer refused and advised the cat to stay out of Mac's way.
It took them a week after meeting with the Abrahamses to reach the Low Earths. As they got closer to the Datum, Maggie caught up with the current events and watched images from Earth West 2 and Earth West 3 were the stepwise Yellowstones were acting up. They brought the Franklin to the Navy graving yard in Datum Detroit where the ship was swarmed by technicians.
Nathan, Harry and Carl watched this with great interest. Carl, however, was not allowed off the ship, the presence of trolls on the Datum being somehow problematic. Maggie was appealed to see how many of the tools used wore the Black Corporation logo. She got even more suspiscious when she learned that the faulty turbine was replaced, free of charge, by a more recent model courtesy of the Black Corporation.
She asked Nathan and Harry to run a systems check to see if Black didn't leave her with any surprises but the scan came out clean. Shi-mi, on the other hand, got used to sleep in Maggie's sea cabin and even had her own basket.
As the twain descended, the local sheriff, a man named Charles Kafka, approached the ship accompanied by a young man and a juvenile troll in chains. Maggie fed up after dealing with so many dumb incidents cut short to the introductions and asked what happened.
The sheriff told her that a band of trolls were walking past the township when they ran into Wayne and his friends who started to pick on a little one. The trolls fought back and the one now in chains laid out Wayne’s brother.
Maggie, frustrated and furious, interrupted the sheriff’s story and ordered Jason Santorini to get Carl from the ship. They waited for five minutes until Jason came back with Carl. Maggie then faced the young troll and announced that he was now part of the crew. With her own dog-tag chain she fixed Nathan’s mission patch to Carl’s arm and ordered Nathan to use the troll-call to explain what just happened to the new crew member.
Sheriff Kafka then asked if Maggie wanted to hear Wayne’s testimony but she replied that they wanted to hear the one of the troll instead. Nathan used the troll-call to converse with the prisoner and gave a extrapolated account of what happened to Maggie. The trolls were walking not far from the fields when the boys found them, threw stones at them and tried to trip up the young.
Hearing that, Wayne got angry and said they couldn’t consider seriously what a talking animal said. The troll-call, being still on, translated Wayne’s words. Carl, with incredible speed, moved to grab Wayne’s ankle, lifted him and suspended him upside down.
A smile of satisfaction appeared on Maggie’s face. She told the sheriff it was them who needed to earn the trolls’ respect and not the other way around. Turning to Wayne, she told him she would let her parents deal with him.
Infuriated, Wayne told her that everyone knew about her,her ship, that it was all over the outernet and called ‘Captain troll lover’. Maggie, feeling her blood rise, told Carl to drop him. The young man let out a cry of pain as she turned her back on the teenager and headed for the ship.
The Franklin stayed over Cracked Rock for the night. Maggie, still angry at what Wayne told her, was wondering how he knew so much about her from his remote location. She called Harry from engineering and asked for the nerdiest geek he had. Without hesitation, he told her it was Ensign Fox. She asked him to tell Ensign Fox to present himself to her sea cabin.
While Toby was on his way, Maggie took the time to read his file and saw that he had a high IQ and was exactly what she needed. When he presented himself in front of him, she asked if they ran systems and security checks often. He replied that they did it all the time but used Black Corporation softwares for that. His answer didn't satisfy Maggie, she observed that despite the scans coming out clean, he seemed that lot of information was still leaking outside.
She tried a different approach and asked Toby how much of the Black Corporation software was present on the ship. The ensign took this into consideration and answered that it was everywhere on the ship. She thanked him and, before dismissing him, asked him how the census he was in charge of was going. In his opinion, the census advanced at a very frustrating rate.
After ensign Fox was gone, she grabbed Shi-mi and sat her on her desk and starting to complain about George Abrahams and his troll-calls and how every attempt at a communication with trolls was surely relayed to him. Shi-mi started to talk but Maggie interrupted her and asked her to set up a meeting with George Abrahams.
The next, she went through her business at the township where she met with the mayor, residing a couple of worlds away, who told her he would do his best to learn from the errors they made. She also met once again with sheriff Kafka who apologies for his screw-up. Maggie told him it was no big deal and they all had a lot to learn.
Back on the ship, she knew her intention to meet up with Abrahams couldn’t be kept secret from her senior officers. She was not surprise when Mac showed up at her sea cabin with a couple of coffees and waited for her to tell him what was on her mind. The old companions sat there talking about the Black Corporation and how she felt like she had a searchlight on her. Mac told her that she should keep on trusting her instinct like she always did.
A long-term investment
Not to her surprise, her request to meet with Abrahams came to pass only a few days after talking to Shi-mi. It was agreed that they would meet in Redemption, a town further West from Cracked Rock, conveniently located on the Franklin's route summoned to Valhalla with all the other twains of Operation Prodigal Son.
A few hours after their arrival, a car with a driver was waiting for Maggie by the twain. It looked like a limousine and had steam coming out from under the hood. Once she climbed inside, she saw that George Abrahams, somewhat looking younger, was already there.
Smiling, he informed Maggie that the vehicle was operated by the restaurant and started to tell her about it when he noticed that she didn’t seem at ease and asked if she was alright. Maggie was troubled by his appearance and decided to be honest. She told him that he looked younger. To what he whispered softly that they both knew it was only a façade.
That was enough to trigger the paranoia Maggie already had against the Black Corporation. Before leaving the ship, she’d put a tracker in her uniform pocket and felt glad she did it. She thought Abrahams was kidnapping her and started to warn him against doing so when he interrupted her, saying that she was being too melodramatic.
To her relief, the car pulled off in front of a fancy restaurant in a typical Long Earth architecture made of stone and timber. As they sat in a booth for two, she raised her glass and asked if she should raise a toast to the Black Corporation.
Abrahams told her that indeed he worked with the Black Corporation and through them like he has already told her when they last met but considered himself working for mankind and the troll nation. Two fine species, in his opinion, separated by stupidity. He also told her it was the reason why she came to his attention, along with others like Douglas Black.
When he also revealed that he had a hand in the selection panel that helped to give her the command of the ‘’Franklin’’, she realized that her whole career and her whole life has been manipulated. He also praised her on how she handled the situation with the trolls and told her she was now part of the long call as “The woman who let the trolls fly”.
From his point of view, she wasn’t as manipulated as she claimed to be but merely presented with opportunities she was free to accept of decline. He agreed that she was being watched, but in this technology-soaked age, who wasn’t? He concluded by saying that eit ven after this conversation, it wouldn’t change anything on how she handled her mission and asked her if she wanted to order.
After the limousine dropped her not far from the ship, she walked to and saw Carl standing by the access ramp. The young troll saluted her as she walked by. After a short stop at the bridge, she headed for her sea cabin where she thought about George Abrahams and Douglas Black. She came to the conclusion that, for now, she could only accept the situation and went to bed as Shi-mi was gently purring in her basket.
Carl and Cutler
As the ‘’USS Benjamin Franklin’’ took his place among the other airships, he was hailed by the ‘’USS Abraham Lincoln’’. Ed Cutler, Captain of the ‘’Lincoln’’ told her that Admiral Davidson, commander of USLONGCOM, was aboard and wanted to see her in person.
Maggie changed her uniform and was waiting for Davidson in her sea cabin when she got a call from Nathan, saying they had a situation down at the access ramp and that she better come to see it for herself.
Once she got there, she saw that Carl was among the welcoming party that greeted Davidson and Cutler, who was also Davidson’s aide, was holding a gun to the young troll’s head while the Admiral was looking at the situation with some amusement. Maggie approached Cutler and, whispering, asked what he was doing.
To what he replied that he was containing a dangerous animal. Maggie, embarrassed, told him Carl was in fact part of the crew. The gun-holding Captain, asked if it was a joke and threatened to put a bullet in the troll’s head.
Maggie, upset, asked Cutler if he was a parent and told him that if he didn’t lowered his weapon, she would kick him so hard between the legs that his chance of ever becoming one would be close to none.
The USS Neil A. Armstrong II
After dealing with this situation, Maggie finally managed to get to her sea cabin with Davidson. He congratulated her on how she handled her mission despite the loose mission orders and particulary praised how she got the people at New Purity to bury dead trolls next to their own dead.
He then offered her the command of the USS Neil A. Armstrong II, the semi-secret ship desgined to explore the Long Earth farther that the Valienté expedition and the rumoured Chinese journey, when the Valhalla situation would be taken care of. One of the ship’s mission would be to find the Armstrong I and its crew.
That night, Maggie was laying half-asleep in her bunk, thinking she would miss the Franklin. Shi-mi joined her on her bed and congratulated her. She also added that Maggie would probably need a cat on the Armstrong II even artificial animal liked the ‘’Franklin’’ better. Maggie told her she would give it consideration and told her to find some sleep.
The march on Valhalla
On July 2040, all the Navy twains arrived at Valhalla. A march to the city hall was organized, every twain Captain was to nominate senior officers from his ship to participate. The officers would be escorted by a cluster of Marines and Ed Cutler was put in charge. Maggie fearing what might happened, after seeing Cutler lose it with Carl, volunteered.
Once there, they found a deserted city but kept on marching. Around three blocks from city hall, people started to step in out of nowhere bearing fruits, food, gifts and even picnic baskets and filled the space between the militaries and the city hall. Cutler ordered the troops to use bayonets but Davidson forbade that. Ed then ordered the Marines to cut a path through the crowd but the pioneers refused to move, would step when Marines were trying to cuff them and reappear a bit further.
Ed growing more and more angry asked Hiram if he could fire a couple of shots above the rebels head to scatter them but the old Navy officer ordered him to keep his weapon holstered.
Nathan asked Maggie’s permission to go watch over Cutler, to make sure he wouldn’t do anything stupid. Maggie agreed with Nathan and the ship’s XO hurried to follow the angry Navy officer.
And just like that, the Long War was over. As one of the Navy twains passed over the crowd and people were looking up in admiration, shielding their eyes against the sun, Maggie realized that the Franklin's mission was over and that her future would be on the USS Neil A. Armstrong II.
Captain Chen is concerned
In November 2040, Maggie met up with Chen Zhong, Captain of the Zheng He, over the West 1 footprint of Wichita, Kansas, to discuss about the delivery of vote ballots for the upcoming US presidential elections.
It was agreed that the US Navy will send a small contingency to escort the Zheng He during the duration of the elections while the Chinese will also send a part of their crew to board the USS Neil A. Armstrong II.
The launch of the Armstrong II
An uninvited guest
Thanks to the Chinese stepping technology embarked on their twains, they passed Earth West 1,000,000 less than ten days into their journey. It was at this moment that Douglas Black decided to reveral himself. Having bankrolled the construction of the twains, he was able to build himself a cabin and embark in the Armstrong II without Maggie's knowing. After a brief chat, Maggie accepted his presence under the conditions that he had to follow her orders.
The Armstrong I
There, they met a group of survivors comprised of David, Anne Spencer, Michael Spencer, Rachel Spencer and Rosalind Spencer. Mac, noticing that none of them were wearing Navy uniforms, advised Maggie to be cautious.
Back in the 2040's in Happy Landings, the 'Napoleons' offered their leadership to the community's elders but got rejected. They attempted a coup d'état but their reign didn't last long thanks to the USS Neil A. Armstrong I.
The elders then requested Captain Stringer to bring the 'Napoleons' aboard as prisoners to exile them in a remote Long Earth from where they wouldn't be able to come back from.
Aboard the ship, they manage to seduce most of the crew to the point where a fight occured between them and the rest led by Captain Stringer.
They eventually won and took control of the ship and dumped everyone else oustide the ship (even their followers) except Sam Allen who was hidden in the Armstrong's envelope at the moment.
It was Sam Allen who provoked the crash of the ship on Earth West 182,674,101 where he lived for several years as a prisonner to the Next until he was found by Snowy.
Maggie decided to arrest the 'Napoleons' and they resumed their journey.
Earth West 250,000,000
At the end of August 2045, the Armstrong II and the Cernan arrived back on Datum Earth and precipitated the ongoing crisis about the threat posed by the Next when people saw David's behavior and what ill-intentioned Next were capable of.
Cutler's secret assignment
When the Armstrong II and the Cernan took position over Happy Landings to deal with the threat posed by the Next, Maggie summoned Mac to her cabin when Ed Cutler brought, to their surprise, a briefcase containing the enabling mechanism of a nuclear weapon. Since Maggie was the only one capable of giving the final order, Mac suggested to hold a hearing between two advocates, one for the use of the weapon and the other against. In the end, Mac was designed to argue for the pros and Joshua Valienté for the cons.
After a heated debate, in the end, Joshua prevailed and Maggie ordered the nuke to be disarmed. The Navy twains then left Happy Landings in peace.