A New Beginning

New Beginnings
Malcolm Carter
I find myself packing, like so many others about to serve on the UNS Drake's inaugural mission, trying to decide what odds and ends of my life I have room for. This of course is no easy decision, anyone who's traveled in space knows how cramped the quarters are.

I once took the Gungapost ferry from Titan to Jupiter's orbital station Olympus. I was given a tiny but sturdy travel case by my kindly Spacelane purser and told not to overfill it. I wore three sets of clothes that day and sweated like a pig the entire time. My pockets concealed various contraband: a toothbrush, razor, datacam, wallet, and pack of crackers. Meanwhile that wonderful case contained two items, a fifth of Titan's famous mulehouse vodka and my IBM Mini-Sourcepad.
Well, this trip isn't quite that bad. In its infinite wisdom, the U.N. Forces are allowing the crew to stow one regulation sized foot locker, 16"x16"x30", of personal effects. Terrific! I have to cram 58 years of living into a single foot locker. I'm not pack rat by nature, my job has kept me on the road most of my life, but I still have some things I need to bring.
The first item in was an 8"x10" picture of my late wife Betty. No, it wasn't our wedding picture, but one much later when we were on vacation in Hawaii celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniverary. It was, and still is, a tacky tourist photo taken at the tiki lounge in the Kuanalani Hotel. In it, we give each other a quick kiss on the lips during our tour's luau dinner. We wore the requiste leis and hawaian shirts even though we both felt foolish. We were celebrating, along with the others in our tour group, the joy of companionship. The bamboo frame is worn slightly with age now but the memory is still fresh in my mind. It's how I like to remember her, full of life. Breast cancer took her the following year at the age of 49.

Next, was a dog-eared compilation of William Butler Yeats poetry. I've always admired his verse and sought to fashion my journalistic career on his simple premise for writing, " It is not a writer's business to hold opinions." To this end , I'm glad to say I've been modestly successful in my adherence to his code.
What's most intresting about starting a new phase in your life is the choices you make, what you leave behind is often as important as what you carry forward. Perhaps, its a chance for us to change, to reinvent ourselves, to become a new person among strangers. Seldom do we get the chance to clear the slate and start fresh.
I found this time as I packed that certain aspects of my life, like a chapter in a novel, simply closed. I didn't make these choices out of malice or because the nostalgia no longer held importance. Simply it was time to move on.

Time is like that, the older you get the more precious it becomes, until you value every minute of every day. You hope to leave your mark upon the world. You hope someone notices. As I packed I began to wonder whether or not the Drake faced these same questions.
It was over ten years ago when the Nelson class ships were first proposed to the U.N. ambassadors. I wonder now how much then they were an attempt to redifine ourselves and the world we live in? Over two decades ago we were a world in crisis. The economy was bleak and there was no sign of a bull market in sight. The megacorps struggled to maintain thier footholds on our fragile interstellar stage.

Piracy, a thorn in the heart of society rose in frequency, as it does today. Private wars, commercial wars, governmental wars, they all existed. How many of us remember the old TBO commercial? "Fight for your rights, fight for the American way. Join TBO today, and your family will profit even if your employment is prematurely terminated. High risks earn high yields. Come speculate with us." That was as bold and unabashed a campaign of corporate expansionism as the world has ever seen. In truth, it made some American workers millionaires and others merely puppets in the corporate wars that followed. I'm sorry, we still call those self correcting market fluctuations. Well, I've seen more then my share of workplace fatalities.

The last few years have been kinder and gentler. Ambassador Nwabi Solhan, from South Africa, has emerged as a new moderate voice among the populace. Her efforts have helped Secretary General Jasis Mular realize the potential that has long been held in reserve by the UN. Our current economy and culture is experiencing a modern renaissance. The people are happy and times are good. Admist this euphoria, the Nelson class ships are coming off the line. The spectre of piracy and corporate raiders may finally be addressed. The law is back in the land and its name is UNS Drake. History will judge whether this was an instrument of justice or oppression, only time will tell.

Well, I've almost finished packing only two more items to go. For old time sake, I'm placing a fifth of mulehouse vodka and my old IBM Mini-Sourcepad. Hehehe, some habits are hard to break. If thats a prophetic statement from an aging reporter so be it. Until my next report, I simply say, "Bon voyage to the Drake and all her crew."

Copyright 2001 - Peter Alan Swanson.  All rights reserved.  All wrongs disavowed.  Printed here by permission

Space Vermin's Near Earth Traveller Campaign