Yesterday, I survived. I survived the most nerve-racking experience of my life. I guess there was a good reason I did all those drills for so long. If I had not, I would have been even more nervous than I was. But I assured my survival. Hopefully, these approaches to death are behind me, and the remainder of my life will be so much easier now.
Today, I will wake to reality.
In any case, I am here, the first captain of the new flagship for the Tyberian Empire. This is the first ship of the new Delta-class of naval constellations, dubbed the HMSV Maelstrom. This constellation is essentially a mobile stellar-nexus since there is one small battleship, six Thellos-class corvettes, and over two hundred Zetra-class fighters on board. I now have a crew of about forty-five hundred at my command, counting all the smaller ships, though we could feasibly fly with less. Presently, we are overstaffed for the maiden flight, in order for more personnel to receive with-hands training. The typical complement would be fifteen hundred.
What else … hmm … oh yeah! I discovered I can offer my friends command positions on the ship. Joe is my engineering commander, Maice is my security commander, and Ana is the medical commander. And Tess, with her space travel experience and familiarity with this model—her family built it—is the navigation commander.
Oh, man! I forgot! I am on a different ship now! I have to do that same stupid intro again! Well, actually, I may not. I could just port over my log entries from the Spartacusto here, and just have it listed as a cross-reference. Yeah, then I will not have to start from raw! Sometimes I am amazing to myself!
Well, I guess I will start where I left off. Where was I … oh yeah! I was to speak regarding my wife. Her full name now is Rebecca Michelle Tyberius. She chose to drop her maiden name all together. She has long, almost iridescent bluish-purple hair that she likes to put in a ponytail. She has a fair complexion, with really soft skin, I might add. And big, beautiful light-brown eyes. Only once have I seen her smile, and it was indeed a welcome surprise. Yeah, I guess she is perfect.
But despite her healthy appearance, I have confirmed she has many emotional distresses. Most causally from, as I suspected, events in her childhood. Notably, the starship accident she lost her parents and nearly got killed in about fifteen years ago. Records indicate they, in the company of her closest family, were venturing to our world for a formal introduction before we married. But since that accident, she has a fear of space travel. So when she traveled to Alexandria for the wedding, it was the first time she departed her homeworld since that incident.
But this is not the least of my worries. To this day, she still has a profound fear of space travel. And apparently, she is still traumatized by her family’s death, since she was so young when it happened. This trauma, as I understand it, in some way has scarred her emotionally—such that she never developed a natural trust toward anyone.
Since her parents’ deaths, she apparently has made no attempt to be close to anyone. So, as far as I know, she has not a single friend. Not that her position afforded her opportunities to develop a lot of friendships, but I would think she would have one, considering she was to choose her bridesmaids. And while I can empathize with the loss of her parents, it does not make sense why, though, she does not attempt to make friends. Without need of saying, she has not extended warmth to me. For the present moment in time, we will be living separately. My father says it is not unusual, given we do not really know one another, and, well, I guess she is shy. Not that I am not, only around women. Maybe this is not so bad.
No, I do not like this. I am finally trying to accept this, and new obstacles present themselves. It seems this will take time.
The question is, though, how long?
This is the married captain, signing off.
Richard knocks at his wife’s quarters, groaning as he does. He looks up at the bronze plaque with the inscription ‘Richard F. Tyberius – Captain’ emblazoned on it. Richard smiles in reluctance. “It is for the best.”
“Rebecca, can I come in?” The door slides open, Rebecca standing in the doorway. She immediately runs to a couch she is sitting on.
Richard looks over the cabin, starting to his left, seeing the sliding door to the bedroom standing open, an area only half the size of the principal room. Richard sees her bed is already neatly made, even before housekeeping arrives. Beside the doorway to the bedroom is a vast library shelving about three-quarters full of books. The remainder of the shelving small red asterisks, partitions for personal effects placed by housekeeping on the shelves, and still remain spartan.
The bedroom wall mates with the outer bulkhead of the vessel, a wall of ovoid viewports stretching from just above eye level to the ankle along this opposing wall, the stars beyond rapidly streaking by. In the corner is a desk with some books laying open, large historical accounts, markers placed throughout.
The couch she chooses is part of a set that faces the ovoid viewports, a trio of a two-tone loveseat and two large, plush, matching chairs. The burnt umber material serves to complement the prominent copper-toned metal walls exposed in the room, while the lighter neutral accents on the material help to tie in the neutral carpeting.
As Richard steps into the room, he sees to his right the dining area in the other corner of the room, the table and chairs mostly made from the same copper-toned metal of the ship. The tabletop, however, is a single solid pane of transparent material with ornately beveled edges and intricate scrolled engravings at the corners of the oval. The chairs, two armchairs, have plush padded seats, backs, and arms, the satin material being the same color as the darker shade on the living room furniture.
The kitchenette separates from the dining area with an island, a small ell breakfast counter facing the dining area, and turning to the door, with stools matching the dining furniture along the perimeter. This space is primarily composed of a lavatory sink, two food heating surfaces, a cold-storage vessel under the prep counter behind the bar, and a single door dry pantry beside the sink. Above the lavatory is a brass engraved plate, the rim of the plate are several lifesaving numbers Richard can immediately recognize, along with instructions for contacting food services.
Richard walks over to the couch Rebecca is on. She sits with her feet on the edge, her knees up to her chest, and arms around her legs. “Can I sit down?” She looks up with a distant expression and then shifts to one side of the couch. He sits down near the other armrest, a prominent gap between them. “What are you looking at?” Rebecca remains silent, still staring out the window.
“It is bravery you show by coming with me, knowing your fears.”
She continues to stare into the expanse.
“The accommodations are acceptable?”
Her head drops, and, nodding quickly, she returns her attention to the stars.
“I almost forgot.” He rummages through one of his pockets. “You can use this to get a hold of me,” he says, producing a titanium analog watch, eleven serif numbers adorning the face, and an anodized red heart button at the three o’clock position. Rebecca looks at the timepiece and then to Richard. “I had it made for you since my duties have me in all the other places.” She takes the watch, slowly running her fingers over the dial face and tracing the button, then quickly puts it on her left wrist. She turns back to the viewport.
Richard looks away from Rebecca for a moment in thought and then turns back, continuing to converse. “I wish I had the opportunity to travel to your world.” He looks down at the floor. “Then maybe I would know you a little better. Perhaps this whole situation would not be as awkward as I feel I am making it.” He looks up, seeing tears rolling down her cheeks from the corner of her eyes. “I … I am sorry. I did not mean—”
Trying to wipe away some of her tears, she turns to Richard. “Please leave,” she asks softly. Her eyes, though, tremble as she makes her plea. “Please, let me be alone for a while.”
Richard unhurriedly rises from the couch. “If that is your wish,” he responds. He turns toward Rebecca. “If you need anything of me, at any time”—he steps closer—“To be clear, at any time you can summon me.”
Richard trudges slowly to the door. He looks back, seeing she is still staring out the window as he moves out.
Richard steps into the Delta Room, a rest area, so named because of its shape, near the back of the constellation. The room, nearly three thousand square meters in size, is full of tables and chairs made from the same copper-toned metal as the ship. The room’s two arching superstructures allow for an unobstructed view of the rear of the constellation since they serve as the support for three large panes of transparent titanium between them. While the two levels in the Delta Room can accommodate the entire complement of all the vessels at berth in the Maelstrom, it is only partially occupied, with the majority of the crew still finishing up their shifts. The crew there each gathers to small triangular bars dotting areas throughout the room.
Joe, sitting at one of the large, triangular copper-toned bars, sips a tall glass of translucent violet fluid. “Is that any good?” Richard inquires as he walks over to Joe, sitting down.
“This is the best strawberry-grape float I have ever had!” Joe says, slurping down the remainder of the drink.
“Strawberry and grape?” Richard asks in surprise.
“Sure! You should try it sometime.”
Richard forces a smile. “So, have you heard from Jen?”
Joe cringes. “I forgot to call her!” He looks at his watch. “And it’s too late now! Oh, she’s gonna kill me!” He looks at Richard. “Can I seek asylum on your ship?” Richard forces a laugh, though halfhearted at best. Joe notes the disdain on Richard’s face. “Speaking of significant others, I thought you’re gonna spend some time with your wife after your orientation speech?”
Richard leans forward on the bar. “Yeah, that is what I thought I was going to do.” He turns to Joe. “But before I really said much, she asked me to leave. I am not really certain why.”
Joe waves to the crewman tending the bar, raising his nearly empty glass. “What were you talking about?”
“Well, I was the only one talking, but I was just trying to know her a little bit.” Richard looks down at the bar. “And since she would not speak, I tried to think of the matters on which she would want to talk. So I talked about if she liked the room, flying in space, things of this nature.” He looks up at the bartender. “Then, all of a sudden, she starts crying and asks me to leave her room.” He turns to Joe. “And I certainly do not like the idea of us having separate quarters, especially with so many people on the ship who could find out!” Richard notices Joe is staring at him. “What? What did I say?”
He takes a long noisy slurp of his shake. “I hope you didn’t say all of that to her.” The bartender quickly brings another float.
Richard quickly shakes his hands and his head. “Now, pause your horses! I was always polite and nice about it.” He folds his arms. “And did not discuss the issue of separate rooms with her. She had rescinded my invitation by then.”
Joe sips some of his foamy drink. “Then, she may not want to talk. It could be an extremely difficult thing to venture into space again since her last experience was so traumatic, and it happened at such a young age.” He takes a long sip. “How old do you think she was?” Richard thinks about it a moment.
“Well, it was about fifteen years ago. I guess she was about five or six.” He looks at Joe. “Why do you ask?”
Joe sips more of the float. “From what I recall of your people’s history,” he says, wiping his mouth with a nearby napkin, “most of her family was on that ship when it blew up.” He grabs a spoon, pointing it at Richard. “So think about it: You’re six years old. In the span of a few minutes, everyone you knew, your parents, your grandparents,” he counts them off with his free hand, pointing to each finger with the spoon, “your closest aunts, uncles, cousins, and all your closest friends suddenly were gone forever. Everyone you ever knew was gone in the blink of an eye.” Joe pauses for a moment, letting it sink in. “How do you recover? Where do you start? She’s too young to let someone know how she truly feels, and maybe people assume they know.” Joe takes another sip, allowing Richard more time to dwell on what he’s saying.
“I do not want to come across insensitive,” Richard responds, “but I would think she would be finished grieving her parents by today. And while space travel can be ominous, I find it surprising she could continue to have such a strong apprehension now since she has had ample time to work through her feelings.”
“Well, consider this,” Joe then continues. “How would you describe the present state of affairs on Thorvus-Maxia?”
Richard shrugs. “I do not know enough to really have a good answer to that question.”
Joe shakes his head. “Richard, I’m not the media. You may not have an official answer, but you do have a clue what’s going on up there.”
Richard nods, looking up at the bartender. He wipes his hands, stepping away. “Well, from what I have heard, their government seemed to be destabilizing for some time, even more since the death of her family.” He takes his head and places it on the crown of his now bridged fingers. “Her presence is likely the only thing holding her people together.”
“I see,” Joe stares off into space. “So she’s spent most of her life without any reliable guidance, without something, or someone secure she can look up to.” Joe pauses. “And even you know, from your own experience, being of royalty, you have a special set of problems that come with being a member of a monarchy.” Richard groans. “But your family is there to help you work through these problems.” Joe looks at his drink. “What if you had to face that alone?”
Richard shakes his head. “That is too much to ask of one person.”
“Well, she’s had to deal with many of the same problems, but with no guidance. Her people expect her to have all the answers, so she could be given the impression asking for help is a sign of weakness.” He stirs his drink. “She could have been made to feel she is only able to trust herself.”
“That does not take into account her principal advisor is obviously in control, judging by how he handles her affairs.” Richard looks at Joe. “His influence in her matters is a little stronger than I expected. I can only guess he is taking advantage of her timid nature.”
“That could be a factor, too!” Joe points the spoon at Richard. “She’s probably afraid you’re only in this marriage for what you can get out of it!” He takes another drink. “Her silent treatment is probably her way of feeling you out, to see what you really want.”
Richard rolls the words around in his head. “So she never had anybody to be close to since those around her expect her to be the absolute authority. And, if she is truly timid by nature, others are taking advantage of her, and she surely is aware of this.” He looks up to Joe. “But I have a question: Why this conclusion? To be clear, you could not have fully reasoned this matter just now.”
Joe smiles, finishing the second float. “I happened to come across an article in a magazine about Thorvus-Maxia, I forget where, but their opinion was she was under a lot of pressure, and after talking to you, it starts to make sense why.”
“What could I possibly do?” Richard probes, hoping he can help.
“That’s the thing. What you’re already doing should be helping. She doesn’t know if she can trust you yet. She doesn’t know if she’ll ever be comfortable in space. She doesn’t know what to expect next, since this all new to her. You’ve got to earn her trust.” Richard turns to look out the viewport, watching the stars streaking behind the ship into the darkness of space. “Richard, you’re her husband. You’re going to be married for life. You’re going to be with her as long as you both live. You’re going to—”
“All right, all right! It is clear!” Richard cuts in. “I will strive to be the person she reaches out to. As if I did not have enough to worry about.” Richard’s jacket started beeping.
“Wearing a bomb again? You’d think you’d learn after what happened last time.”
“Ha, ha,” Richard states as he pulls out the small beeping pocket watch. He pops it open, immediately recognizing who is calling him. He looks up at Joe, ecstatic. “It is her. Rebecca called me!” Richard jumps up from the triangular bar, quickly moving out of the room.
Richard knocks at Rebecca’s door, feeling a sense of déjà vu. “Rebecca?” The door slides open, Rebecca standing again at the door.
“Please come in,” she says softly, grasping his hand, walking him over to the same couch. Richard follows, sitting down in the same spot on the couch. Rebecca, picking up a pillow, moves closer to Richard, resting her head on his shoulder. Richard, feeling her hair on his neck, wraps his arm around behind her head. “I … I must apologize,” She admits. “I did not wish to be mean to you.”
“It is all right. I can accept you might want to be alone.” She raises her head, looking into Richard’s eyes.
“But that is not why…” She looks up to Richard. “I do not want to be alone. I wanted to be with you but…but…” Tears start to stream down her face. She tries to wipe some of them away. “I do not want to be alone anymore.” She sighs. “I have been alone all my life. This time, our time together has been all I could look forward to for a long time.”
Richard frowns. “How can that be?”
She lays her head back on his shoulder. “All my life, I have been groomed for marriage to you.” She looks down at the pillow in her arms. “I knew it could free me from my loneliness …” She pauses.
“From the loss of your family,” he adds.
“Yes …” Her voice trails off. “When you mentioned coming to my world, it made me think about when they first told me you were coming, not long after I lost everyone.” She squeezes the pillow tighter. “I was only seven, but it scared me so bad, the thought of losing you too, I refused to allow it!”
Richard looks down at her. “You did not wish for me to visit?”
She shakes her head. “No, I really wanted to meet you, but …” She stops, wiping her eyes. “I could not afford to lose you! I was scared of losing you!” She looks around the entire room, her voice shaking. “Even now, being out here, I am always afraid. I fear something could happen, and I will be alone again!” She starts sobbing. “I could not live with that!”
Richard wipes away the rest of her tears. Taking both of her hands into his and looking into her eyes, he smiles. “Rebecca, I am here for you. I will always be here for you.”