Getting ready for Jane

Pack out. Or the packing list. Let’s see. Preparation began with deciding what to take. In the Earth’s Army I was taught to have enough on hand for any contingency, planned or unplanned. You know, cold, hot, and some survival tools like my Gerber/pocket knife. Old habits. Hope for the best… You get it. Sticking to the old school tooth brush, paste, shave cream and a razor wasn’t necessary, but it was part of every day movement for me, like the cups of coffee I would incessantly drink near electronics. Scold-worthy? I think not. Command didn’t care if I combed my hair or dabbed on aftershave. Or, about the coffee stains on the front of my uniform.

On-board supplies were limited by the ship. Ours was a midsized scout with fighters, guns (plasma and rail), cargo bays and dorms. So, that was always the same, except for configurations which changed because we might need to add a few more sleep bays for all our human (living) passengers. The rest, cyborg, clones, and our humans and other blood-pumping beings in stasis (depending on the mission and the length of the trip we, the main crew, rotated in and out) didn’t need the regular supplies.

Outside my uniform, little clothing was needed unless it was for my own taste. The scout ship’s replicators don’t make cargo shorts and tank tops, and the small market places on outposts stick to the local fare, rare drinks, delicacies, and trinkets for travelers – no clothes. Honestly we in the space faring worlds don’t all wear the same things, of course, because we come in all shapes and sizes. You’d never see a reptilian in my Garth Brooks T-shirt. Yet sadly, the ship’s uniforms, smarts suits with memory fabric don’t come with deodorizers. So, there I add another toiletry item.

My work space was on the operations deck near navigation, the psionic section, sort of like radar, except with consciousness and tools to boost it; it is like remote viewing on steroids, hence why we’re next to navigation. There’s more than nuts and bolts out there. All that empty space out there, isn’t empty. With just our basic senses, we’d only know about a sliver, if that, of our universe let alone our own galaxy. Remember what it was like before the microscope and telescope? The problem with working in psionics, is the physical effects – tiredness and headaches, as you would expect, and possible psychological trauma, which is a huge job hazard. We have all had episodes of insanity, fractures and the like. Diet helps, and of course, staying grounded. Hence, I bring my own music, from meditation, to Jazz, and classic Country. Certain songs attach to pleasant and meaningful memories of Earth, places where trouble seems to dissolve.

Believe me, in my line of work, expect the unexpected, almost every day. Great, even good awareness leads to fewer hiccups, and the commander likes that.

Then there’s digging for my gear in the farm shed. Every time I do, I think about how envied I’ve become among my crew mates. A patch of dirt and wide open blue sky go a long way. Some of the crew rent shoebox apartments in the revamped old cities, like dome covered green zones, but with all the amenities. Alas, the grass is greener, literally, on the old farmstead.

When I open up the trunk and dust off my duffle, much of it, automatic day dreaming takes over. Being a young pup in basic training, the numbness from deployments, anxiety from weapons fire, the long waits for ship repairs, the not knowing if it was day or night on the farm, if the same people might be there when I got back, and a whole long list of stops in my career (I can remember all of it), but what always hits me, every time, it never fails, are the beings we encounter, some for the first time.

At those times, I keep staring even though its rude. I can’t help myself. In one of my first encounters as a young officer, during a diplomatic assignment aboard our ship, an ambassador from some place which today cannot be named came aboard. She was beautiful, topless, except for the long-drooping gold necklaces, a tiny waist, and thick legs which tapered quickly to long calves, and elegant bare feet. It was explained to me that the geometry of her body mattered, like having a signature, certain measurements, which all determined her station in life. Her eyes were angled but mostly filled with her pupils. Up close I could see the blood veins in the corners. Skin marble-like. She had a thin nose, extremely small lips, triangular face, and high cheeks. It all fit together in a uniquely captivating way. She wore a gold headdress over the high part of her skull, which appeared to perfectly round on top, like an upside down raindrop. I said “Wow” in my head and she could feel the admiration.

She excused my curiosity, my attention, and apologized for her own.

So, there’s one more thing I pack. As you may have figured, all the other stuff isn’t necessary. The ship has everything I will ever need for the mission. One thing is, absolutely, no question. My journal. Along with a large pack of my favorite black pens. I take some ribbing from my crew mates, who say they don’t know why I do, considering everything’s recorded on and outside the ship; even the ship has living parts to it, or sentient aspects. All I have to do is ask her to retrieve a memory and she gently places it in my mind with every detail intact. I call her Jane (as in Dick and Jane which reminds me to stay focused on the basics; keep things elementary, simple) and she responds like it was a term of endearment. She knows that. But she was christened the USS Coventry, which Jane thinks is fake and phony. If you don’t think ships use profanity, think again. (Laughter)

It’s the journal which helps me remember these times in a different way – a more human way.

Published by: frankmarquezwritings

I'm a writer, and have been for most of my adult life. Without making this sound like a resume, I wrote creatively in college, dabbling in poetry, short stories and play writing. Later, I became a journalist, public affairs specialist, copy editor and eventually a guy who ran his own newspaper. Now, I'm back to letting my imagination run wild in some new creations including a science-fiction novel. Somehow, I also managed to teach English to high school kids, and roam the battlefields of Afghanistan as a field historian. Field historian may be a misnomer considering all I did was write abstracts summarizing military unit profiles and missions that included hundreds of interviews of troops and contractors in combat. I grew up in a small town called Gering, Nebraska, before escaping to Pomona, California, where I spent my last two years of high school, graduating from Ganesha High School in 1983. I have a Bachelors in English from the University of La Verne (1987), and a Masters in Education from UNLV (2007). In between, I worked for government - the Army and TSA. I served tours in Panama, D.C., and Tokyo, all thanks to a teacher who encouraged me to see the world before I settled down. As hobbies, I run, hike and bicycle long distances. I have also been known to surf and ski. I now live in my hometown after moving back in June 2015. I get to see family on a regular basis, breath fresh air, and not have to ride the D.C. metro or get stuck in traffic. In fact, I ride my bicycle whenever I can. I'm happily married to my wife Lisa, and we watch over a pack of fur babies, our dog Charley, and three cats Spike, Bootsy, and Franky (his shelter name). If you should ever visit me in west Nebraska, be prepared to feast your eyes on paradise.

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