ISS 5 had been launched a mere three years before the war. The Fundys had control of Venezuela and were a growing threat at the time, so it had been built with security foremost in its design.  Chong wondered if that’s why it looked like a spiky grenade or if that was just an accident of design.
Aside from the foreboding appearance, the docking procedure was almost impossible. Any ship not pre-cleared with a double-authenticated one-time pad International Space Agency key had to wait two hours to dock instead of 30 minutes. Chong got a special demonstration of this security by bureaucracy in action as he watched Speaker Malinao’s ship arrive and dock while his UMC shuttle waited. He respected that it didn’t matter whether the President or the janitor was on board, he just thought the overall security was a little overdone for peacetime.
The shuttle finally received an assigned spike near the Speaker’s, and after one hour in space and two waiting outside their destination, Chong, Lawrence and their guards set foot on the ISS 5.
It was in fact, a historic occasion that went largely unmarked.  No UMC citizen, much less a President had been on ISS 5 ever. The head of UMC’s space agency had visited ISS 4 in the decade before the war, but the ISA was never excited about UMC personnel on board, and the war had frozen out any chance of UMC citizens finding their way over to the Earth’s prime space outpost.
It was really just jealousy.  UMC troops could have guarded the ISS 5 during the war but the ISA resisted. When the colonie shad united and rebelled against the Earth, they had also rebelled against the ISA which had overseen most of the missions that founded the colonies. Many of the Moon revolution leaders were members of the ISA. So it was natural for the remaining ISA members to see the UMC as a rebellious and ungrateful child. The most loyal ISA leaders accused the UMC of setting back space exploration thirty years. Martian missions aside, it was true that no new colonies had been founded since the Moon revolution. It was also true that the two attempts to found a newcolony at the Ambrosius site, one before and one after lunar independence, both failed for lack of interest. Moderates agreed that the UMC’s independence was more a symptom of the stall in colonization, rather than the cause.
That didn’t change the chilly reception as the President of the UMC set the first lunar foot on ISS 5. A single Lieutenant met them and barely greeted them before instructing the pilot on the conditions and procedures for leaving. Chong felt this was more than hint, it was a push.
Speaker Malinao cam erunning in with a few aides in tow, huffing and puffing out of breath.
“I’m so sorry we’re late President Chong… uh Chong. I know we look close form outside, but they docked us 5 stories up and the lift is in use for cargo or something ridiculous, so we had to hoof it. I’m so sorry.  Anyway, how was your trip?”
Chong thought it remarkable how much she glowed after a little excercise.  Further thoughts along these lines were quickly stamped out, but not before it became apparent he was staring.
“The President and I had a lovely trip and were impressed with the strength of the ISA’s security protocols,” Lawrence broke the awkward silence.
“Yes, quite a wait,” Chong managed. “How was your flight.”
“Uneventful.  I’ll show you the way to our ship.  You know these ISS types, always in a hurry.”
Malinao led the way to the stairs back up to where the US ship was docked.  Chong found himself walking up the stairs behind Malinao and struggled for all five flights with not only carrying on a conversation while huffing an dpuffing, but trying to decide where his eyes should focus.
“Welcome to the USS Sam Rayburn, my home in the stars,” said Malinao gesturing at her ship. “It’s been in use by Speakers of the House in the United States for just over fifteen years. But they didn’t make it for us.  Before it was given to the Speaker, it was used as the Vice Presidential shuttle for five years.  It’s old but it’s spaceworthy.  They’ve kept it maintained and upgraded.  It should fit six nicely, but since we have about nine it may be a little cramped.  I hope you don’t mind.”
Chong admired the enthusiasm that filled her deep brown eyes when she spoke about her ship. “I don’t mind at all,” he said truthfully.
Lawrence looked like he disagreed, but they all made way through the entry.  The interior was velvet red and to Chong’s Moon-raised eyes seemed mor elike it was built for 12 rather than six. But there were only six seats, which meant three of the guards had to strap themselves into wall spaces for the departure. One of the guards took the invitation of the pilot to sit in the cockpit after Chong said it was all right.
They departure protocols took all of five minutes, considering that they were leaving in a pre-authorized ship.  He wondered how long the UMC shuttle would have to wai tto leave.
“Your pilots should be leaving right after us.  They won’t waste time on the way out,” Malinao said as if reading Chong’s mind.
It was an hour trip to Omaha. After departure they would have about twenty to thirty minutes to float about the cabin before reentry commenced. Malinao took the opportunity to show them around the ship.
At one point, Chong found himself alone with Malinao, looking at a viewport at the Earth rolling by beneath them. He wasn’t really alone, but the guards were in the cockpit and Lawrence was conferring with the aides on arrival logistics.
“Don’t you ever miss it?” Malinao asked.
“I never had it,” Chong said.  He got this question a lot from Terrans. “I grew up with a black sky and silver light.  It’s all I’ve known. The Earth’s beautiful to me but so are many things.” He realized what he just said as he also realized Malinao was looking up at him.  He turned quickly away and thought he caught the hint of a smile.
“The Mona Lisa is beautiful. A Martian sunrise is beautiful, but I don’t particularly miss either one of those things. I appreciate them but I never had them.”
“So you have to have something, to miss it?”
He inexplicable feared answering that question.
“Well yes, I suppose.  At least when it comes to planets– I,” he was interrupted, saved, by the announcement that reentry would soon commence and all passengers needed to secure themselves.
“We’ll continue this later,” Malinao said as they made their way back to their seats.