The Crew of Ark Royal
Born: 2105, British Isles
Rank: promoted to Commander for the Roving mission
Position: Commanding officer of Ark Royal
Background: Gilmore began his adult career, he fancied, as a thrusting, dynamic young space officer. During training, his cadet files described him as “excellent command material”. Facts proved otherwise: he proved unable to rise above a particular level of seniority and take on more responsibility. After graduating, he joined the prestigious Starward Space Company and spent the next few years watching the rapidly receding backs of his contemporaries, and then his juniors, as they overtook him.
Eventually, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he was referred for psychological evaluation. It was concluded that his strength lies in handling small groups of people, not larger. He therefore transferred to the Royal Space Fleet where he would never be expected to handle anything other than small groups of people.
At the start of His Majesty’s Starship, Lieutenant Commander Gilmore is commanding officer of HMS Australasia, a sweep ship belonging to UK-1. He is a reasonable success by the standards of the big wide world, but by his own personal standards he is a failure, perpetually haunted by the fear of lousing up and being exposed as a fake. The full range of facts about him has come to the attention of King Richard, who is looking for a captain for Ark Royal, and who for various reasons believes Gilmore to be the ideal candidate.
Gilmore was briefly married, before his lack of success put a strain on the relationship that neither party was willing to tolerate, and has one son: Joel, aged nearly 19.
At one point, Gilmore comments: “I could never be a Captain Bligh … but I can get on just by being Captain Gilmore.” His philosophy of life can be summed by this remark, even though it actually indicates a lack of familiarity with the real story of Captain Bligh.
Born: 2113, Israel
Rank: recently promoted to Lieutenant Commander
Position: Executive officer of Ark Royal
Background: Hannah Dereshev’s earliest memory is of the Flight into Egypt — a night when Israel came under nuclear attack and was rendered uninhabitable. It was an experience that meant she never had much time for terrestrial politics, and she got off Earth as soon as she decently could.
Hannah never had any problem progressing in her chosen career but she always took care to see that her job was just that — her job, not her life. At the start of her career, she decided she would rather be a big cog in a small machine than vice versa, and applied to join the Royal Space Fleet. In her first posting as an Executive Officer in the RSF, she found herself saddled with the added task of getting a depressed, nearly burnt out commanding officer back on his feet. She managed to do this with her customary calm, quiet efficiency and Michael Gilmore became a friend for life: indeed, she is the closest friend he has. She herself has eyes for one man only — her husband, Samad Loonat.
Space travel can entail journeys that are months long, sometimes years in extreme cases, and it is quite customary in the mid-twenty second century for married couples to get round this problem by hiring out their joint services to the space lines. Where one goes, so does the other.
At the start of His Majesty’s Starship, Lieutenant Dereshev is Executive Officer of HMS Australasia. She has just received promotion to Lieutenant Commander and command of her first ship.
Born: Bangladesh, 2115
Position: Chief Engineer of Ark Royal
Background: Like his wife, Samad comes from a family of refugees. In fact, it is something of a family tradition: as militant Hinduism swept the Confederation of South-East Asia during one of those periods which its government would rather forget and which Excellency RV Krishnamurthy remembers so nostalgically, his Muslim father fled persecution in the Punjab to settle in Bangladesh. Young Samad was born and before long Bangladesh too fell to the ever-expanding Confederation. When he was seven, the family sailed in a crowded and rickety boat across the Bay of Bengal to Thailand, in whose refugee camps Samad grew up. Samad has always lived with the knowledge that his own country was occupied by the forces of the Confederation and whenever things have got hard he has comforted himself that it could be worse — he could be back in Bangladesh.
Samad’s idea of happiness is simple: engines to maintain and a wife to love. He is happy to let Hannah be the leading partner of their marriage: he knows she respects his skills just as much as he respects hers. On Earth, an Israeli and a Bangladeshi joined in marriage might be unusual but to Samad it makes perfect sense.
Born: Mars, 2122
Position: Software Officer of Ark Royal
Background: In the mid twenty first century the first puritan settlers arrived on Mars, turning their back on what they saw as a corrupt, decaying Earth and managing to carve out a colony through sheer blood, sweat and tears where all other efforts had failed. Seventy years later, Peter Kirton was born.
Unfortunately for this naturally inquisitive and sceptical boy, the pioneering atmosphere of the colony’s younger days had stultified. Peter doesn’t doubt the validity of his Christian faith — he has subjected it to the same sceptical scrutiny that everything in his life gets, and it has come up tops. What he has questioned is that there are billions of humans not living on Mars, and is the Spirit of God really absent from that seething mass of humanity? What it comes down to is the conviction that there must be other ways of being Christian than the Martian way, and so out of curiosity, he left.
Peter’s shipmates find him likeable when he lets his guard down, and he is gradually coming to learn that it’s possible to be a Christian and enjoy life. His unthinking openness and honesty mean that he sometimes clashes with the world, and the world wins: one of the reasons Gilmore chooses him for Ark Royal, at Samad Loonat’s behest, is to get him out of a situation involving official secrets that he would never have got into with a bit more circumspection.
Born: Luna, 2120
Position: Systems Officer of Ark Royal
Background: Julia Coyne came into space because she felt smothered by the conformity of Earth, but her first love is music (closely followed by any form of art). When invited to join the crew of Ark Royal, she has to choose between that and the chance to represent UK-1 in the All-System Choir Festival. What sways her isn’t so much the chance to be one of the first humans to see and explore a whole new world, but the chance to savour that world’s culture. After arriving, it isn’t long before in her own mind she is halfway towards being humanity’s cultural ambassador to the Rusties and is making plans to develop a cross-species cultural institute. She is invited to attend a performance by one of the Roving’s greatest artists and is decidedly put out when Peter Kirton wants to join her, not just because she thinks he’s a fun-denying puritan but because she doesn’t want anyone muscling in on her potential triumph. When she hears his reason, she has a complete change of heart: he is a Martian, born on a desert world, who has never seen Earth, and he longs to experience the beauties of nature described in the Psalms for the first time. That is the kind of reason she can relate to … even from a Martian.
Born: UK-1, 2126
Position: Assistant Engineer and Pilot, Ark Royal
Background: The Nichol family have been citizens of UK-1 since it went operational in the 2120s, and Adrian was born there. Adrian has grown up imbued with the pioneer spirit and didn’t even have to think about it when offered a post on Ark Royal.
Adrian’s eagerness for life can best be described as “puppy dog”: ever willing to please and convinced of his own ability, yet rarely stopping to think before shooting his mouth off or jumping into a new situation. His standards for life are purely material: for instance, he is a skilled pilot of atmospheric and space craft, but rather than just bask in that knowledge, he has to wear his gold pilot’s wings even on his space uniform, so that everyone else knows it too. Gilmore privately thinks that his teenage son, five years younger than Nichol, is the more mature of the two, and that’s not just a proud parent speaking.
You can well believe Adrian has his heart set on being an admiral by the time he’s 40 … assuming he makes it that far.
James William Charles Arthur George Windsor is in his early thirties: a slim, not tall man with a moustache which Gilmore thinks is affected. James was born in 2116, the oldest (and only boy) of three children, and the only one to play any part in the running of the United Kingdom.
Unlike his father, James has never known what it is to be poor: he has always been the son of a rich and powerful man. He has also felt vaguely cheated all his life: in this republican day and age, children are still told stories about magic kingdoms and princes and princesses, and he has a vague feeling that his already good life could be better.
James is arrogant and prone to taking his rights as prince for granted: he can never see why he should have to persuade people when a direct order will work just as well. He is also impervious to the people he hurts, annoys or just rubs up wrongly as he storm through life because … well, what do they matter? They’re subordinates.
Putting this man and Michael Gilmore on the same ship is not something to be recommended if at all avoidable. Which, sad to say, it is not.
Say what you like about Krishnamurthy, he is a patriot, and has never done anything for personal gain. He has done some terrible things, but they have always been for his beloved Greater India, as he prefers to call the Confederation of South East Asia … even though the the Progressive government that he serves wishes very strongly he wouldn’t. Krishnamurthy is a thorn in the side of the government — an all-too-present reminder of the bad old days that they would rather forget.
Krishnamurthy has a loathing for the British who ruled India for so long and, he is convinced, robbed it of its natural destiny: the loathing carries on to the natural heir of the Empire, the United Kingdom. His whole life has been dedicated to promoting the interests of Greater India and to expanding its empire. He is most notorious for being the man who ordered a nuclear strike against Rangoon rather than let it secede from the Confederation, and he unvaryingly plays for big stakes. To his everlasting frustration, his superiors in the Confederation government have concentrated their efforts in a purely terrestrial direction, but Krishnamurthy can see that the Confederation greatly needs a presence in space. Quite apart from the fact that all the other powers have one, it is an obvious gap in his country’s defences, and the Confederation has expanded about as far as it can on Earth without antagonising nations it would be best not to antagonise.
But space …
Krishnamurthy is the mastermind and architect of the entire Confederation strategy as regards the Rusties. His superiors are happy to give him rope, because whether he wins or loses, he will be out of their hair.
He is confident of winning.
One of those men forever riding the coattails of greater men, Secretary Subhas Ranjitsinhji is both an unqualified ass (in Krishnamurthy’s opinion) and indispensable (ditto). Krishnamurthy is always asking himself why he tolerates the man, yet finds he always does: he is a good administrator, Krishnamurthy finds him unswervingly loyal, and he can handle Krishnamurthy’s network of spies and informers and all the other fiddling but necessary details that frankly bore his master. He is a useful subordinate and occasionally a handy scapegoat or just plain kicking stool.
That said, Ranjitsinhji shows on at least one occasion that he can be just as ruthless as his master … and Krishnamurthy might not know everything about him.
Richard George Henry Louis Albert Windsor is a direct descendant of Queen Elizabeth II and would be king of the Great Britain if Great Britain were still a monarchy. Born in Manchester in 2088, he married the socialite Serena Lovegrove-Phillipson in 2111 and has three children: James, Louise and Lauren. He separated from his wife in 2131 and James is the only one of his children with whom he has any continued contact.
Richard Windsor put the wealth that remained with the family after the Dissolution to good use, building up a thriving business empire in space with a series of cunning buyouts and mergers that somehow always left him slightly more in pocket than before. In 2119 work commenced on what would be the largest spaceship in existence — an asteroid mining vessel designed by himself and the best engineers money could buy. At the same time, he merged many of his key business ventures and recreated the United Kingdom as a purely business entity (and apparent tax dodge), complete with Parliament and Royal Space Fleet. In 2122 the vessel was formally launched and named UK-1.
Hence, by 2149, King Richard is well established in his kingdom in the depths of the solar system and apparently has everything a man could ask for. But he can still dream of empire..
Joel Gilmore is aged nearly 19, has just joined the Royal Space Fleet as an Engineer Midshipman and worships his father, despite (or perhaps because of) having lived with his mother since the age of 12. As he will explain five years later in The Xenocide Mission, “Mum was, um, odd. She joined the Post-Socialist Collective and there the boys and girls are exactly the same. We play together, grow up together … I mean, baths and showers together! And then you’re expected to join a group marriage when you’re older …” All things considered, Joel was quite glad to get away.
Andrew McLaughlin only appears in the US edition, The Ark. Readers of His Majesty’s Starship can read his one appearance here, which was cut from the final edition for reasons of length. McLaughlin is a native of Deep South Georgia and commanding officer of the first American starship, which is (of course) named Enterprise.