“Carry on,” I smiled slightly as I turned and left. Knowing those two, they will have it ready when I awake even if they have to stay up day and night to do it. They love a challenge, especially, when they are attempting to outdo the other. New Academy ensigns are a rare breed- arrogance of youth and ability.
Eventually, I found myself on the bridge. Mozart’s Concerto in C Major, K. 299 was playing. The bridge was deserted except for Sergeant Major Gregory Drake. Rapt in thought, he stood in front of the bridge’s monitor watching the darkness of space.
A twenty-year veteran of the Marine Corps, he had seen more action than most platoons in an ugly war. For unknown reasons, he had volunteered to be the security chief on the ship. It was a last minute assignment after Ensign Jefferson Blondo, our security chief, was killed in a lunar accident three days before launch.
I found him an enigma. He deeply loved classical music and knew the Bible and Shakespeare by heart. As he did his rounds, he had his digital reader. I once asked him how many books he had on that marvel of technology. He replied several thousands, but he had not yet reached the middle of the index. I felt an attraction to him, even though, he was several years older than I. However, he knew how to treat a lady from my observation of how he interacted with the female crew – sensitive and always a gentleman.
“Penny for your thoughts, Sergeant Major,” I spoke softly.
“Captain, please join me.” He motioned for me to stand on his left. After taking my place, he said, “It’s a lovely sight to behold.”
“The darkness of space?” I asked with a grin.
“The mystery of the infinity. Its color is more heather gray if you focus on it carefully.”
For the first time I noticed that he was right. The color was heather grey bathed in a moonless night. “I see.”
“Yeats wrote that the stars were God’s candles,” he said reflectively.
“That’s a lovely metaphor,” I stated as I turned my gaze toward him. I hope he will not venture down his usual path of metaphysical discourse which makes me uncomfortable. I had enough metaphysics growing up. Childhood. My reverie was broken by Drake.
“I understand that you go into hyper stasis in six hours.”
“Yes, Sergeant Major, you sound concerned?”
“Not concerned, Captain, but I will miss our daily chats and Friday night meal.”
He sounded sad. “You are the only person on this ship with whom I can be myself.”
I wish I could tell him that is the primary reason I have avoided hyper stasis – the time alone with him, but I can’t. Bravely, I replied, “It’s only three months.”
“Out here three months is an eternity of uncertainty, Captain.”
Did my face betray my feelings? No, he was looking directly at the monitor, not me. There must be something else. “Is there something troubling you, Sergeant Major?”
There was a long pause. “No, Captain, I’m at peace. I love space. It gives you vast distances from peoples and places. It allows certain memories to be discarded like old fuel.”
“The war has been over for fourteen years, Sergeant Major”
“Once you have lived and survived war, it is never over. Its mental presence is like a phantasm. Memories are its arrows to pierce one’s soul with a river of regrets. I thought I could find no outlet for those regrets to flow away. I have found space. It comes closer to being a tributary for those regrets. For that I’m thankful.”
“You and I will need to talk more often when I awake, assuming I awake,” I sighed.
He turned and gazed into my eyes with piercing perception. “You will awake, Captain. In many ways you are like me. I didn’t care for the experience, but from a health point of view it is needed. Your stress levels have been extremely high since the Kuiper Belt. You need rest.”
There was a concern in his voice which pleased me. After all these months in space, perhaps, he senses how I feel. Does he have feelings for me? “I see that you and Dr. Garcia have been talking.”
“No, Captain that would be a breach of ethics on Dr. Garcia’s part if he discussed your condition with me. I base my opinion on observation.”
“I see,” I smiled. “One of the burdens of command is stress, especially when you have sixty-two lives to be responsible for each second of each day. I hope my decision was correct to continue our mission.”
“It was, Captain. We all knew the risks of deep space exploration. No guarantees. You are the best commander that I have had in my career.”
“Thank you, Sergeant Major.” I returned his gaze. I could become lost in those big brown eyes of his. His muscular frame, especially his arms, was as big as his place of birth-Montana.
I wonder what it would be like if he kissed me. I snapped back to reality. I’m his superior officer. To entertain these romantic thoughts is unacceptable. I have to be an example to the crew, but I ‘m also a woman. No, this line of thinking is dangerous. I must end this conversation now. “I ‘m due in the galley.”
“Lieutenant Hill has a special repast for you. She and the galley master have been working hard today.”
“Please tell me. You know I hate surprises, Sergeant Major.”
“I cannot disobey a superior officer. Lieutenant Hill would place me in irons,” he gently laughed.
“Irons were outlawed as a means of punishment a century or two ago.”
“On the sea, but space is a new ocean, Captain,” he laughed fully.
“Will you be joining us?” I inquired with hope.
He smiled slightly. “Not tonight, Captain. You and the first officer need the time together. It will be her first command without your guidance. She needs the private time.”
“I will expect a full report when my stasis is over, Sergeant Major.”
“I will not disappoint you, Captain.”
I’m sure that you will not, I thought. How could he? “Keep everything safe until my return.”
“Aye, Captain.” He turned back to the monitor.
I stood there for a few moments watching him. I felt better and less nervous about stasis.
“Any parting words for me, Sergeant Major?”
“An ancient poet wrote, ‘Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night’.”
I felt intense pain at his quote. It was from Blake. My mother had been a high school English teacher who did her dissertation on William Blake. As a young girl growing up, I was surrounded by her fascination with Blake. My mother changed after her doctorate was awarded. Her passion for Blake seemed to become all in all. She was never the same after that.
My father did not understand his wife’s world . He was a farmer, true and simple, to the agrarian way of life. To him Blake was a dead poet and painter who died two centuries before his birth.
Both of us lost her as she gradually faded into her world of Blake. I never comprehended Blake. His metaphysical airs had seared my soul. Blake was to blame for the lost of my mother.
“Captain, what troubles you?”
“Long story, Sergeant Major. I will explain it to you in ninety-one days. Is Blake one of your favorite poets?”
“Favorite? No! Like me he was a sojourner on the road to the unknown. I appreciate him, but I do not embrace his every thought.”
“Captain, I will come by at nine each night and read to you if you like?”
“That would be nice,” I smiled.
“My pleasure,” he replied without turning from the monitor.
“Must go,” I almost whispered as I left the bridge. Read to me every night. I wonder what he will pick to read. Somehow, I need to explain to him my feelings about Blake. Perhaps, Drake can make him a bit more human. Time to head for my last meal. I hope the ship will be here in ninety-one days when I awake.
To Be Continued….
G. D. Williams © 2011