Post-Argo Decommissioning; Nautramara Bay, Planet Thera
After three days of accomplishing nothing, as was planned, I had the idea to sit out on the deck and take advantage of the clear night skies. All around the property, trees reached into the night sky, casting a black silhouette like a frame around the large yard. In the near distance was the lakefront with light and shallow waves lapping from a warm and gentle breeze. Without a cloud in the sky, I could see the vastness of stars stretched out in white, blue, red, and yellow stars like sand scattered across glass.
With a small table positioned in front of me and an unoccupied chair nearby, I set the InterstellarCompass down and crack it open. The orb rotates as the floating needle inside begins to turn before stopping while pointing up and away. A dull green light grows within the orb until a pleasant green illuminated just enough for me to see the words in my notebook. Reaching down, I turn the compass with a click-click-click until it aligns with the arrow. I lean in close to check the numbers, cross that with the signal reads on my tablet, mark latitude and longitude, and…yup, that should be about right.
It was a quiet and welcomed night. The crickets chirped as they should, a few fireflies lazily rode the breeze with dim lights flashing on and off. I sit back with the notebook in front of me and a StarScope in my hand. I put the scope to my eyes and slowly scan the skies. Back and forth, side to side, periodically I try to use my naked eye to see if I notice anything different. Not yet.
After a few minutes, the needle slowly turns away and seems to be gently following along. I look through the scope in that direction and notice a dimly burning light trailing across the sky. If it makes a shallow turn and heads Northeast then it’s definitely a ship. Moments go by as I watch the needle, check the scope, and mark the position in my notebook. It doesn’t turn for the spaceport somewhere nearby, but I’m pretty sure it’s a ship. Still, I mark the time and location along with a checkmark.
Luckily I was able to spot another tiny streak heading the opposite direction. The scope doesn’t help much, meaning whatever it was must be too far away. The trajectory doesn’t change so I mark it down as a satellite. I check the tablet for nearby satellites and…yup, that’s it. ER-01-P-Q98. Check.
I look back to the house and see a couple lights on in the kitchen as another one comes on in the office. I was just curious, nothing going on tonight. She knows I’m out here. Soft music slips through the house. She was a fan of soft jazz. I never was previously, but after being around her so long I finally came to appreciate some songs.
That evening was just like those previously – quiet, calm, and relaxing with no unexpected events. She had been waiting for these days for nearly two years. Now that they were here, her expectations of what they would be didn’t disappoint. With jazz in her soul, chilled wine in her body, she occupied her mind by walking around in pajama pants and nightie while perusing through his office. With the click of a lamp, she walks around with one arm tucked under the other, her nightie resting easily on her body, protectively bringing her wine along for the nightly snoop.
She trails her fingers along the bookshelf, not really noticing any one book in particular. Periodically she would stop and look at the framed pictures on the wall. There’s one of him and the Commander posing for a shot on the quarterdeck, their hats on and their hands behind them. Another one of the ship at a random spaceport with stars in the background. Another of Ensign Maury busy doing something. Other pictures were those of distant galaxies – blues, greens, reds, and sparkles of stars with cosmic clouds in distances too far to fathom.
A little smile comes to her face as she takes a drink and looks at one with the two of them at a military ball. His blue and gold uniform. Her deep green and pearl white dress to the floor. A line of flags in the background.
The clock ticks slowly before the ding of the half hour.
Before leaving his museum of a man cave she stops by his uniform hanging on the armoire and turns a button until it faces right side up. She had a pet peeve about the buttons. They clipped onto the uniform through the coat holes but wouldn’t stay right side up. Often times she would occupy herself with this tedious task whenever they were out in public. He never minded, so he just let her piddle with them. Her obsessive compulsion satisfied, she turns and gently leaves the office with the lamp still on, needing a refill before heading out to see what he was up to. Along the way she passes a framed certificate adorned with crests, seals, and a couple heavy coins behind glass…
To Commander Clayton Wade for twelve years of honorable service to His Majesty and the Republic of Thera. His selflessness and bravery further ensured the security of Thera and her constituents between galaxies and across the universe. Commander Wade’s gallantry and leadership served as the nexus to his decisive victories over a tough and determined enemy, in the most dangerous of combat zones, proving his mettle as a leader and…
She leaves the door open as she walks out across the deck and into the yard. She sees him sitting there, playing with the compass-thing and watching the sky. It was never something she took to, but it didn’t matter what they did as long as he was home.
“Hey” she says softly while making her way over. She bypasses the empty chair and scooches her way onto my lap. She had no problem using me to prop herself up while my leg feel asleep. There was no removing her, so I just had to suck it up. She looks at the compass and my notes before looking around the skies for a moment. “Are you winning?”
“No. I used to be so much better at this.” I say with a frustrated breath while setting down the scope and wrapping my arms around her waist.
She gently sways a bare foot back and forth across the tips of the cool grass, taking a drink while tucking back strands of hair back to keep them from blowing in my face. Arianna was everything I ever wanted. She deliberately stuck around and made it a point to convince me of that fact. I would say that she was beautiful or gorgeous, but those words don’t do a woman justice when you love her this much. She was everything. She was that one thing I was missing and I thought I would find somewhere up there, but I never did.
We both watch the skies for a quiet moment. The taste of her quick and repeated kisses were sweet white wine. Her kiss was unconditional compassion, ones that say more than what they show you on the surface. Somehow her naturally sun kissed skin could glow just a little in the starlight, honey colored hair sleek in the moonlight, and brown eyes still visible through the darkness. Ari’s hands were the scent of her lotion. Her neck retained an aura of perfume at the end of the long day. She’s quiet a moment. She’s not drinking or looking around. She about to say…something.
“Do you miss it?” she asks, legitimately wanting to know my answer. It wasn’t a loaded or pretentious question. She didn’t want me to say what she wanted to hear.
“Mmm” I hum, taking a glance at the compass as the arrow turns. I look to where it might be pointing, but I don’t see anything. “Sometimes.” I run my hand up and down her back, along the edges, and side to side. She twitches a little before giving me the light elbow.
“What do you miss the most?”
“Coming home to you.” She huffs out a sarcastic breath and shakes her head with a smirk. It was the correct answer for the position I currently found myself, but she knows it’s just a reaction of a response.
“Seriously. What do you miss the most? The fighting?”
“No” I say quickly. “That’s the last thing I think of, honestly.” I let a few moments pass, think, and feel her against me. “I miss the stars. Floating through galaxies. I miss the launch – sails out, men on the ropes, sails unfurling, picking up speed and darting off to the next galaxy.” Ari just listened. Maybe she paid attention to each point, but she really just wanted to hear my enthusiasm and genuine passion for sailing and for the service. She knew it was good for me to talk about it without being drunk. “But most of all I missed you.” She’s quiet, drinking, still thinking.
“Did you get out just for me? Because I wanted more time with you?” I shake my head with an obvious and slightly scrunched face.
“I got out because I wanted to be with you. I wanted us. I needed a good reason to call it, really. When the Argo was decommissioned, when you didn’t leave, when I saw you there – standing on the dock the last time we made port. All of those things. But no – you didn’t make me do anything.” I lean up and pull her a closer for a kiss. She sniffles a bit, where if I asked then she would blame it on the wind. She touches a finger under her eye and clears her throat before taking another drink.
“Maybe we can take a cruise sometime?” she asks. “A long one. On a large ship to see a couple galaxies? Maybe go see Maury?”
“Yeah,” I say in an assured tone. “That would be great.”
She turns her attention to the stars and barely notices the blue cosmic cloud cutting behind the mass of white specks. She looks to the compass and tries to see where it’s pointing. “Ship” she says pointedly. I look to where she does while she drinks.
“Yup” I say while trailing my fingers along hers. She leans her shoulder into me and places a cheek on my forehead.
Another white light streaks across the sky.
*This is Clayton’s final short story. Thanks for giving them a home*