After the announcer made his remark about 'being right back', some of the bright lights were turned off and the men operating the big boxy cameras relaxed a bit.
Maddox finally recognized someone in the crowd, Planetary President Tinker stepped out of the throng and approached, hand already extended.
He grasped the captain's hand, and shook it, then shook the hands of the other members of the landing party.
"Fantastic! What an arrival!" He beamed, "My money was on a little flying saucer, but that light show was something else! I smell ratings captain..."
"Uh thank you President Tinker, as a repre..." Maddox was interrupted.
"Ten seconds Mr. Tinker." came a prompt from a young man wearing heavy black glasses, and holding a wooden clipboard under his arm.
"Right, right... Listen Maddox, I'm going to step back over here and we'll do the intro live for the viewers at home okay?" Tinker said as he moved back to the crowd.
Maddox didn't get the opportunity to answer. Before he could speak, the young man in the thick black glasses was counting down from three, fingers extended.
The lights came back up and the announcer spoke again through the microphone, "Welcome back ladies and gentlemen to this historic first meeting between PBN President Nicholas Tinker and the crew of a craft from a far away world! Let's watch now as President Tinker approaches these visitors from space..."
Tinker stepped forward right on cue and extended his hand again, this time in a much more formal manner.
"Greetings Captain, I'm Nicholas Tinker of the Planetary Broadcasting Network. As president of programming at PBN, I speak on behalf of all the people of this world when I say 'welcome to Viden'."
Maddox glanced at de Coursey in a manner which said, 'didn't we just do this?'
"I'm Captain Samuel Maddox of the Starship Endurance. I bear greetings from the United Federation of Planets. This is my first officer Commander de Coursey, ship's surgeon Doctor Chadwick and my chief navigator Lieutenant Commander Leah Ashby."
With the mention of Ashby's name there was another flurry of flashbulbs from the throng of reporters. More shots of 'space-girl'.
Tinker shook hands with each again in turn, pausing briefly to ensure good photops with each member of the Endurance crew. When he was done, he waited until his sound man moved in close with the boom mic before he spoke again.
"Tell me Captain, what brings you to our world?" Tinker asked, purely for the benefit of the cameras and the viewers at home.
"We've been sent here to observe conditions on Viden and to gauge your suitability for a mutually-beneficial 'Cultural Exchange' between our societies."
"Cultural exchange?" Tinker asked, "Does that mean an exchange of technologies?"
"Well, that's only one small aspect of it."
"Fantastic!" Tinker threw his arm around the captain's shoulder as if they had been life-long friends.
The reporters nearby began to shout questions at the Endurance crew and more flashbulbs popped.
"Now, now," Tinker schemed, "There will be plenty of time for questions after our meeting. There's business to be discussed."
"And there you have it ladies and gentlemen," the amplified announcer spoke up again, "Viden's first contact with an alien race! Stay tuned to the Planetary Broadcast Network for more exclusive coverage of the visitors from space!"
"Aaaand we're off the air Mr. Tinker." called out the fellow in the black glasses.
"Alright Captain, let me treat you and your men here to some of the finest food that Viden has to offer." Nick Tinker took Maddox by the arm, "We've got this place... and it's right here on the lot, reserved for the stars and execs here at the network, you're gonna love it!"
"Virginia sweetheart," Tinker called out over his shoulder as they left, "get me the viewership numbers for the last thirty minutes would you? I want to know how our 'visit from space' ranked."
After a brief ride in the back of a blue motorized ground car, Tinker and the Endurance landing party were escorted into a two-story building not far from the beam down point. The glowing neon tube above the double door entry was twisted into the word "Canteen".
An attractive young woman in a form-fitting silver jumpsuit met them at the door, "Your table is ready Mr. Tinker... welcome back."
The group was seated in a large booth in the far corner. Maddox could see why Tinker might like this spot, it afforded him a view of the entire place.
The restaurant was lit in shades of blue and purple, and was populated by men and women in professional attire who looked to be conducting business while they took their meals.
Tinker took Ashby by the arm, "Don't worry sweetheart, there'll be none of that 'space-girl' nonsense in here. No cameras allowed."
The waitress passed around a series of slick, printed menus to everyone at the table.
"Can I get you something to start off with? Something to drink?" The silver clad young woman asked. Maddox noted that curvaceous ladies in silver garb seemed to be a running theme throughout the establishment. A fact that was also not lost on his first officer.
"My usual Ruby." Tinker didn't even look away from his party.
"Listen, I know my viewers are gonna want to know ALL about you folks, and I'd like permission to the first dibs at exclusive interviews with each of you." Tinker was very smooth.
"Interviews?" Maddox asked, "Well, what sort of information will the people of Viden want to know?"
"Human interest stuff you know... about your home planet, where you grew up, how you got where you are today, the action and adventure of working in space, that sorta stuff." Tinker's eyes were aglow with the possibilities.
Maddox looked from Tinker to the other members of his party, "Well, working in space isn't all danger and excitement, there's also..."
"Now now Captain, save it for the interviews." Tinker smiled just as his secretary Virginia came up to the table with a yellow folder in hand.
"The print outs of the numbers from the last half-hour Mr. Tinker." she said, passing it across the table. He thumbed through it.
"Ye gods!" he gasped, "I can barely believe it! The highest I've ever seen." he gestured at a simple paper printout of a red line that spiked up and down along a simple grid, it meant little to Maddox, "Look here, the spike when they show your Ashby, the public is nuts for 'space-girl'... and again here. What is this spike here Virginia?"
"That was when they showed Doctor Chadwick." Virginia practically sighed with delight at the speaking of the name. She was batting her eyelashes at the doctor across the table.
"Of of course!" Tinker replied, "The uniform, the rugged good looks... and of course the red hair, shows up GREAT on screen."
"You and your people are a hit captain." the president of programming beamed as his drink arrived.