Captain Adam Boulanger watches the pilot maneuver the U.S.S. Pequod into orbit around Pluto. Satisfied with her efforts, Boulanger turns, exits the cockpit, and takes the high-speed elevator to deck 10.
Walking down the long corridor, he enters an office where Dr. Wilma Rush is looking out the porthole. Though much younger than he, Adam values her expertise. “You don’t have an appointment, Adam.”
He sits down. “I need one?”
Rush chuckles, sits at her desk, and swipes her hand over its glistening surface to check his medical readings. “You’re in fine shape considering your age.”
“40 isn’t over the hill.”
Rush grins. “Records indicate you were 42 last month.
“I lose track out here.”
“Convenient. And you are here because….”
“Ah,” Rush says, “getting a good deal of that lately.”
“At least 25 people in the last two weeks all complaining about their dreams.”
“Why wasn’t I notified in your weekly report?”
“Psych visits are confidential – unless something threatens the safety of the ship.”
“But don’t be alarmed – space dreams are a common thing, especially the deeper in space we go.”
“Well, I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and I never heard that before.”
“Never heard or never experienced before?”
“Both. This is new for me.”
Rush takes a small carafe and pours yellow-green liquid into two snifters. “Here,” she says, “this is….”
“Martian cognac,” he says, sniffing it. “Had it as an ensign stationed at Bradbury Dome.”
“Wow! You were one of the first then.”
“So what is disturbing you, Adam?”
He puts the glass on her desk and folds his hands. “I keep seeing a baby in my dreams.”
“Well, could be wishing that you had children….”
“No, the baby is me.”
“I know from old images I have. I am floating in darkness.”
“Well, that’s interesting.”
Adam looks down at his hands. “The baby is unloved and cries every time. Something sinister encircles me.”
They are silent for a few moments. He looks up at Rush and she blinks her eyes. “Well, this could be something you want to forget.”
“Like how my mother died suddenly and then my star hopping father whisked me off to space.”
“Sorry, didn’t know that, but we’d have to dig deeper.”
“No, forget it.” Adam stands and adjusts his uniform shirt. “I’ll deal with it myself for now.”
“For your information, most of the crew is having vivid sexual dreams. The rules against familiarity seem most troublesome for them.”
As he turns to leave he says, “We’re all in the same boat, Doc.”
“Yes, Adam, indeed we are.”
In his quarters Adam looks at old baby images. He seems happy being held in his mother’s arms.
First officer Oquendo beeps his intercom. Adam asks, “What is it, Felix?”
“The mining crew is in position and waiting for orders to drill.”
“Yes, proceed.” Adam glances out the porthole at Pluto whispering, “Vast potential riches – a whale for the taking.”
Adam leans back in his chair. He thinks about Kyra, the woman he fancied back on Mars. They were both ensigns with bright futures. Being in love wasn’t allowed back then either; when he thinks about it, love has never been part of his life. Maybe that is the reason for the dreams.
Later that evening the crew sends back data regarding their work. Oquendo and Adam sit in the conference room with veteran crew chief Lech, who can’t stop grinning because of his team’s success. “We hit the motherlode, Adam.”
Oquendo makes a circle with his fingers and graphics fill the clear wall before them. “Appears as if there are more Jovianite deposits here than on Callisto.”
“Such cruelty – we name the ore after Jupiter instead of its moon where the stuff was found,” Adam says.
“Well, now maybe they’ll call it Pluto-ite or something,” Lech snickers.
Adam stares out the porthole at the planet. “Cold little world, here comes the human race.”
“Yeah,” Oquendo laughs, “those Callisto prospectors will be hopping the next flight over when they hear.”
Adam stands. “Let command know, Felix. They’ll no doubt want us to set up a claim tracking system the way we did on Callisto.”
“Good work, Lech.”
Lech rises and says, “Gotta get me a cold one and a piece of….”
Adam waves a finger. “Don’t go breaking the rules again, old friend.”
He lies awake staring at the ceiling in his quarters. Adam imagines Wilma coming to him with her bottle of Martian cognac, forgetting regulations. He hasn’t held a woman in years, almost forgetting what it is to feel anything like affection.
The dream starts differently – baby Adam is floating like a spacewalking astronaut. There is peace in his heart as the baby doesn’t cry, and nothing sinister lurks. He’s lowered away from the stars as a woman kisses him like a lover. She’s statuesque with long red hair and smells like love should. Adam is a man now, holding her close and she says, “I love you so, Adam.” He whispers the same to her as they embrace and glance up at the stars.
The next morning Oquendo brings a visitor to see him – Erin Mackrey, head engineer on Callisto – there to seek permits for her people to drill on Pluto.
It is the woman from his dream. While shaking hands, they exchange a long look almost of recognition, staring into each other’s eyes before letting go.
“Pequod is an odd name for a spaceship,” Mackrey says.
“Well, I hope that doesn’t make you Ahab.”
“I’m not as damaged.”
She laughs. “Good, but wasn’t Pequod doomed in the end?”
“Yes,” Adam smirks, “but aren’t we all?”
Photo credits: Wikipedia, nasa.gov, today.com, u2.lege.net, facepunch.com
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1606600753]