The Dockage of Cameron

by on November 5th, 2010
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It was a beautiful morning. A purple sky resembling wood grain with stars embedded throughout. That’s what I loved about commanding space dock, the view.

As Cameron entered tractor beam range we locked onto the vessel and gently guided her into receiving bay number three. Everything seemed normal until the bay doors closed and the radio crackled with the voice of Transfer Officer Gable, “She’s light, Captain. According to sensor readings she is short 19,212.8 liters of water. Very light on solids too, Captain.”

I pushed the microphone button on the radio and said, “She must have lost part of her load along the way. Look over her hull for meteor damage and get her ready for entry.”

Officer Gable met me on the dock floor and reported, “No damage, Captain.

She is as clean as the day she left Earth. She’s open and ready, Sir.”

Her service lights came on the second I popped my head up through her belly hatch so I knew her motion detectors were working. At the main computer terminal, I raised the Tri-disk power supply. Everything looked good. The communication panel checked out perfect. Life support, interior pressure systems, helm tests, everything was normal.

I displayed the corridor maps on video. As I suspected she was exactly the same as any Class A freighter and I could walk to the resting chamber blindfolded.

As I neared the chamber, hair on the back of my neck stood on end and a cool shiver ran up my spine. The chamber lights were already on and this was very unusual. The tube closest to the door held a crew member resting in hibernation. The console over the tube read green. All systems were good. I moved further through the doorway, tube 2 came into view and my life was changed forever.

She was wearing a blue uniform, her hair hung loosely around her shoulders. A single tear ran down her cheek. In utter awe I stared at her. I had read everything I could find about Earth, but there was never any indication they were so desperate for astronauts they would send a woman, who must be well into her eighties into deep space. What were they thinking?

She noticed me and smiled warmly. “Hello,” she said, “I am Doctor Costen, Cameron’s medical officer. You may call me Kim.”

“I am Captain Ken Sparks, and you are on the space station Antillie.”

“It’s been a long trip, Captain. It’s good to talk to someone.”

“Why aren’t you in hibernation?”

“Have you found a cure for Synthetic Resprosis during the sixty five years we’ve been in space?” she replied.

“I’m not a doctor, but I’ll get one in here right away. Are you sick, Kim?”

“It’s my husband. He became ill almost a year and a half ago. It started slowly but I determined it was SR shortly thereafter.”

I pushed my collar microphone and ordered a Med Lab crew. “I don’t understand. A year and a half ago you still should have been in hibernation. Did the system malfunction and wake you early?”

“No,” she answered, looking to the floor.

“Then why are you awake and why were you both awake a year and a half ago?”

She raised her head and we locked eyes. “I have no idea what has transpired in the sixty five years we’ve been in space, Captain Sparks. But when we left Earth, choosing a mate was out of the question. It was discouraged and frowned upon. Is it like that here?”

“Doctor Costen, choosing a mate is unnecessary. We are all sterilized at birth. Love is exchanged at the pleasure chambers. The limited living quarters on this station make unauthorized births impossible.”

“You have been trained to think this way, Captain. I too was sterilized at birth. Few children escape this totalitarian form of control, even in my time. But life was….”

She abruptly stopped when the medical crew entered the room. She continued to stare into my eyes as they examined her. Her gaze was not the least bit synthetic, so sincere. I thought about what she said in comparison to our world. “You speak strange words, Kim. But this is very interesting to me. I have studied Earth’s history in detail. I would like you to report to my office for debriefing when medical is finished with you.”

The debriefing

As she entered the office, her honest looking face warmed me. There was something appealing about this old woman. It was almost as if I had known her since I was a child. She sat across the desk from me and raised her eyes to meet mine. She spoke softly and deliberately. “I need your help, Ken Sparks. It seems there is no cure for SR even in your time. My husband is going to die.”

“This has been reported to me. I am sorry. What is your request, Doctor?”

“I want you to talk to Central Control about us. I want to remain in hibernation with my husband. I want to spend the rest of my life with him. I want to live as he lives, and die when he dies.”

“Doctor Costen, you must realize, we have a limited amount of space on this station. Every centimeter is accounted for. I’m sure they will deny your request. Although our science will someday find a cure, who knows when that day will be. To grant your request we would have to devote hundreds, maybe even thousands of kilowatt hours powering the computer to care for your tubes.”

“Captain, you sound as if they’re going to wake my husband even though they know he will only live for a few hours.”

“I will speak to the General about it, Doctor, but prepare yourself for the worst.”

“Surely they will spare his life. Once you explain the dilemma.”

“I hope they will, Doctor. I truly do. But what if everyone who’s going to die had the same request? This station would never be able to survive. All its’ power and space would eventually be used to care for terminal bodies resting in hibernation. It would become a giant grave yard floating in space.”

“Captain, we have spent our whole lives together traveling through space.”

“I understand your point, Doctor. And I will be sure to express your request in my report. However, I have to ask you some questions about the missing water. Where is it? What has happened to make your ship loose 19 thousand liters of water?”

“I can’t believe they will just let him die!”

“Doctor, please try to control your emotions. I told you I will bring this matter up with the General.”

“I am sorry. Please continue.”

“Why is your ship missing so much water?”

“Let me start at the beginning, Captain. We left Earth on May 25th, 2157. My husband and I met and fell in love during the training we received from W.A.S.A..”

“W.A.S.A.?” I asked.

“The World Aeronautics and Space Administration,” She answered.

“Oh, the predecessor to Central Control. I must make a note. Please continue.”

“We kept our relationship a secret for fear they would split us up. Mono-mate philosophy was frowned upon.”

“I see.”

“Our plan was simple”, she continued, “If we couldn’t live together on Earth, we would live together in space. We volunteered for a slot on one of the deep space supply ships they were sending to stations in your sector. We knew the ships would be filled with water and food and they would expect us to go into a sixty five year long hibernation.”

“What happened to the cargo?”

“I am getting to that, Captain. John and I learned everything we could about life in deep space. We studied six months prior to our departure.”

“Doctor Costen, I must know what happened to the water and food.”

“We used it, Captain.”

“You used it? What do you mean you used it? How could two people use 19 thousand liters of water?”

“Captain Sparks, I was only 23 years old when we left Earth.”

I leaned back in my chair and pondered her answers. “Doctor, do you mean to tell me you both stayed awake for the entire voyage?”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Neither of you ever entered hibernation?”

“No, Captain. Not until John came down with the disease.”

“Kim-why would you do such a thing? What in the Hell would cause you both to waste your lives like that?”

“We didn’t waste our lives, Captain! We spent our lives exactly the way we wanted to spend them, enjoying each other.”

“You’re both old. Your lives are almost over. Don’t you realize what you have done? You not only disappointed all the people who worked so hard for so long to make these colonies work, you threw your lives away. You could have been youthful. You could be ready to start a great adventure here in space.”

“Captain Sparks-Ken-you point out what we have lost. What about the things we have gained and experienced? You sit there, behind your desk, looking as if you almost feel sorry for my husband and I. But it is I that feels sorry for you, Captain.”

“For me?” I was getting irritated at this old woman. “Why would you feel sorry for me? I have my whole life in front of me. And you can bet your last credit I won’t spend it locked in a space ship for 65 years.”

“Maybe not, but who will you spend it with? As you grow old, Ken, and as you start to look back on your life and the things you have done, who will you reflect with? Who will you laugh with and cry with?”

“I have my friends.”

“Friends? Yes, I am sure you do. But whom do you lie down with at night? Who do you talk your problems over with? When is the last time you were held?”

“I can be held any time I want down on deck six.”

“No, Ken, your speaking of a biological function. Who holds you and nudges you with their nose? Who wraps their arms around you at days end?”

“Nudges me with their nose? Woman, you have gone crazy from being in deep space for so long. It must have affected your reasoning.”

“You misunderstand me, Captain. I am speaking of compassion, tenderness, and warmth of feeling. Have we as a species lost these feelings? Has the trend that began on Earth spread itself outward into the universe, touching not only these colonies, but also all Earthlings through out the galaxy? Is there no Love here?”

“We have love, Doctor. I love this job, I love this station, and above all else I love Central Control.”

She said nothing else, only bowed her head and wept.

The Decision.

When I gave my report and the request of the Doctor to General Cainbash, I (for a reason I was never sure of) sincerely hoped he would grant it. But, for the same reasons I had explained to Kim Costen, he denied it.

The order stated in part: John Costen, Captain of the supply vessel Cameron, shall be brought forth from hibernation at 08:00 hours on the morning of June 20th, 2222. Every effort shall be made to make him as comfortable as possible.

After reading the inter-office communication, Kim let the note slip from her hand and said, “That’s tomorrow, isn’t it?

“Yes, I’m afraid it is. Do you have any special requests?”

“I would like”, she bit her lip to hold back her tears and finished, “I would like some privacy. I want to be alone with him.”

“Of coarse. I’ll have Med lab set up a private room.”

“Thank you, Captain Sparks.”

Kim’s Choice

I’ll never be able to forget the dockage of Cameron or the ideas Kim planted in my head. On the morning they woke her husband, she sat at his bedside and killed herself with some of his painkiller. Only Kim and her husband know what passed between them. As promised, I had arranged for total privacy between them.

She left a note for me. It was found lying on her husband’s chest with the gold ring she wore on her left hand resting upon it. Now, as I lay in my quarters, I hold the ring and read the note:

Dear Captain Sparks,

I am sure you and your world will never understand my reasoning. But rest assured I feel I had a wonderful life and I regret nothing. The years I spent with my husband on the voyage to your space station were the best years of my life.

To take a mate “for better or for worse, for as long as you both shall live” is the most important things two human beings can share together. I leave this world with the hope that someday in the near future, Man as a race will return and recover those beliefs long since past.

God bless you, Captain Sparks.


Mrs. Kimberly Costen.

Inside of the ring is the inscription, “Love lives forever.”

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