Admiral Soki’s Final Mission by Charles C Cole

Admiral Soki’s Final Mission
Charles C Cole

Though the near-space observations and data harvesting were long over, my quiet childhood home was still in geostationary orbit around Murdock’s moon, but not for long. The family-sized research satellite was being retired, in a big way. The Corporation was about to send her on a controlled crash into the lunar surface; one final experimental maneuver, just to see what happens when metal and glass meet the contents of an active neo-ethaline volcano, presumably to get the last of their money’s worth.

I hadn’t visited in over thirty earth years, not since I’d left my scientist-parents for the Space Corps. As an admiral of some small distinction, I’d been formally invited to say good-bye to my old haunts. Rumor had it that the creaky bespectacled men of Mission Control were even going to let me execute the command that sent the ghosts of yesterday into a one-way nosedive.

Before things went Boom, I was given a shuttle and a pilot fresh out of flight school, Lt Enid Poole by name, to take one last, sentimental walk around. We docked easily with the antique floating biodome, a surprise and relief to both of us. The electrical system, running illumination and computers, was still humming thanks to the nuclear fusion generator, but diagnostics showed life support was lost and unrecoverable.

Poole tried to read my expressionless face. “Sorry, Admiral Soki. I’m sure you were looking forward to smelling your mother’s home cooking, embedded in the walls and curtains.”

Actually, my househusband father was the creative one in the galley. My mother –”

Highly respected Earth II exobiologist, Dr. Tomiko Soki.”

Good for you. Yes, Mom was literally defined by the job. I was a distraction for Dad.”

I was grateful for our latest-generation S.C. EVA suits to allow us safe access to all common area, corridors, and residential quarters, though it would have been nice to run my hands over the bulkhead doors and my cold steel desk (where I’d spent many hours daydreaming of future adventures).

My room was smaller than I remembered. No “exercise area” for playing holographic video games. No windows. The walls were covered with paper posters of famous military commanders, my idols even still. The closet was full of my pre-Academy clothes – I’d be wearing new uniforms at my next home-away-from-home. The bed was, surprisingly, unmade.

Perhaps they wanted to pretend you never left.”

Or they expected me to be expelled. I was, after all, home-schooled until I was eighteen. Though I was not rebellious, most of my formative years I didn’t have the deleterious distraction of the opposite sex or peer pressure; it was a simple process to graduate the top of your class in a class of one.”

Next-door, we found my parents’ bedroom suite museum-exhibition ready. The twin beds were neatly made, pajamas were folded atop their pillows, slippers with heels together on the deck below them. An electron microscope took up most of the dresser’s business space, with an open notebook nearby full of handwritten analysis, as well as his-and-her hairbrushes, with a smattering of white hair on each.

May I ask, sir, in the end, did Space Corps have your parents transported to the mega-memorial around Ursis-12? I’m sure, with their contributions to our understanding of life in the so-called vacuum of space, they deserved the highest civilian honors available.”

So I was told. Never been. Maybe one day.”

Our helmet speakers crackled awake. “Ahoy, Admiral Soki. This is the radio room of the Cromwell. Sorry to eavesdrop. Security asked me to relay a message: ‘We regret no recordings can be made of your visit, as much of your mother’s lifework has never been formally declassified.’ Please acknowledge.”

Understood.”

I saw Poole turn off her personal communications system (PCS) a moment: “Sorry, Admiral.”

It’s alright; we weren’t exactly a traditional family. I appreciate the logistical gymnastics to get me here for my final farewell.”

The lights flickered and emergency beacons flashed in the halls. Poole reacted.

Cromwell, you seeing what we’re seeing? Got something to tell us?

Our apologies. The techs salvaging the fusion reactor appear ahead of schedule. Let us reach out to them. I’m sure whatever was done can be undone.”

That’s not necessary. I think we’re through here. Quite a trip down memory lane, but I’m ready to go home, to my command at Space Corps. Proceed with the decommissioning.”

Follow me, sir. I’ve studied the structural schematics in some detail.” Poole led us back to the shuttle. She knew her way better than I did. As we clamored aboard our egress vehicle, the motion-activated lighting burst all around us in glittering greetings. Mechanical or not, the effect was a warm welcome.

As we uncoupled and drifted free, I muted my communications mic. “Poole, for what it’s worth, this trip wasn’t my idea. I think some well-intentioned soul in Central Command is trying to soften me up for involuntary retirement. If you ever get a chance to go back to where it all started, don’t. As much as we are created in the past, the true measure of a man, and woman, is how we transform those experiences and lessons into a trajectory we can be proud of. Got it?”

She nodded, smiled, and returned her attentions to the many flickering sensors before her. Poole, I thought, this trip was as much for you as me. I hope you know that.

 

Admiral Soki’s Final Mission by Charles C Cole 1

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