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In A Starship's Wake

By Stephen Schamber

Chapter 13: A Different Worldview

    Joseph walked down the corridor toward the cargo bay, a mug of coffee in each hand. He wasn’t sure whether Allison really liked the beverage or was just mirroring the two starmens’ habits, but she’d taken to drinking a couple of cups every morning. He tapped gently on the metal door to her cabin, careful not to spill any coffee.
    “Allison? Are you awake yet?”
    “Yes. Hold on.” After a short pause, the door slid open. She accepted the mug of coffee he held out and took a sip. “Thank you.”
    “You’re welcome. Neither of us thought to mention this to you yesterday, but on Sunday mornings Tyrone and I usually watch a live broadcast of the service from our home church. It starts just after when we’ve usually been eating breakfast. You don’t have to join us, but you’re welcome to if you’d like. I don’t know what Temorran church bodies are like, so I can’t say how it will compare to the services you’ve been to before.”
    “Oh! That sounds interesting.” She responded with far more excitement than most associated with a church service, making Joseph smile slightly. “I’ll just finish getting ready and come out for breakfast in a few minutes.”
    Joseph laughed. “Okay. See you in a bit then.” He wasn’t sure what else she needed to do. She looked about like she usually did when she came out for breakfast. She was already wearing today’s dress, which was red with full-length sleeves, and seemed to be finished with her hair. He supposed it wasn’t for him to know.
    She withdrew with her coffee and he turned back down the corridor, taking a sip of his own as the door hissed shut. Tyrone was already handling the cooking for the morning, so Joseph ducked into the living room to get the feed ready.
    Sunday mornings were the thing that most made Joseph question owning a cargo vessel as a career choice. For years attending church had been one of the most anticipated parts of his week. He’d made most of his friends at church, and while he went primarily for the worship service and the strengthening of his faith, it was also where he did the most socializing. 
    Unfortunately their continuous travel through deep space made actual attendance at a service a rare thing. Fortunately their congregation did live broadcasts of their services. He had always found the broadcasts a poor substitute for being there in person. He still missed the socialization, but at least they allowed him to hear the Word of God; that was the more important piece.
    They ate breakfast quickly and filed into the living room a few minutes before ten thirty. Tyrone pulled their few hymnals from a cabinet on one wall and passed them around as the trio found seats on the couch.
    The way the camera was positioned in the church let you see most of the members in the pews. Joseph had always questioned the wisdom of that, considering the number of times he’d caught little boys picking their noses. On the other hand, it was comforting to many of the members who traveled to see their families on the screen, like Tyrone. He talked to Justine every night, but nothing reassured him that she was alright like seeing her at church.
    Just as he had that thought, she walked into the frame to a seat near the front. Elegant as always, she wore a white dress with lace sleeves and had her hair curled into a tight bun. Joseph concealed a grin as he noticed Tyrone’s expression soften and his muscles ease.
    “This is my wife, Justine.” He pointed her out for Allison’s benefit, and the girl nodded. Almost as though she’d heard the introduction, the dark-skinned girl on the screen chose that moment to turn and give a brief wave to the camera.. Tyrone and Joseph both laughed.
    Allison twitched in momentary surprise. “Oh, she knows you watch the broadcast doesn’t she?”
    “Yes, she does. She’s been doing that for years, long before they were married.” Joseph answered before Tyrone could. He couldn’t pass up a perfect opportunity to tease his partner. 
    Tyrone shrugged admission of the fact. “She timed it well today.”
    Allison laughed and would have responded, but Pastor Schmidt chose that moment to begin the service. She fell silent instead as he greeted the congregation and announced the opening hymn. Joseph helped her find it in the hymnal, and the three sang along with the broadcast.
    Joseph knew that many of the other frequent travelers in the congregation simply sat and watched the service. That had never felt quite right to him and Tyrone. To the extent possible, they always participated as they would if they were actually present. It meant a lot of standing up and sitting down, but both had grown up with that. It was comfortable to them. Allison, always adaptable, had adjusted to it by the end of the second hymn.
    As it happened, Pastor Schmidt’s sermon text was Mark 12, one of several sources for the quote “love your neighbor as yourself.” Joseph smiled a little as he read it aloud from the pulpit. It wasn’t lost on the starman how convenient the timing of that text was, nor was it the first time he’d experienced the coincident of a sermon immediately related to his current problems. Maybe he ought to start counting.
    Joseph had studied that passage frequently in the past, and read it even more. Not that it wasn’t good to hear it taught again. No two sermons were ever the same, and there were always new insights to hear. It just happened to be familiar ground to Joseph.
    Not so for Allison, he gathered. If she had ever heard this part of the Bible discussed before, it wasn’t with the kind of explanation Pastor Schmidt could provide. She watched the screen with rapt attention. So many things that many Christians presumed were common knowledge were entirely foreign to others. Pastor Schmidt had made that observation to Joseph before, but it was much more memorable to see someone hearing it for the first time.
    The Christian faith provided many very powerful comforts to those struggling to live in a sinful world, not the least of which was the philosophy of helping others. Those raised in the faith like Joseph and Tyrone sometimes took for granted the power of those promises. He had heard them for the first time as a child, and with so little of life behind him it was almost impossible to appreciate how special they were. Someone who heard them for the first time as an adult, with so much more to compare them to, felt their full impact.
    After the service was over, they set about the day’s work. They still had to check the seedlings in the cargo hold, and it took longer now since they had to adjust the irrigation equipment more often. Fortunately they didn’t have much longer left with them. They would reach Couradeen Station sometime around midmorning on Tuesday.
    Allison didn’t bring up anything from the service while they were working, but Joseph would have been willing to bet she was thinking about it. She was talking far less than usual, and seemed a little distracted when she did. Joseph and Tyrone tried to leave her to her thoughts and talked about their next few scheduled loads.
    It was late by the time they finished in the cargo bay, past time to start cooking dinner. Joseph went to begin that task while Tyrone did his workout, and Allison trailed him to the kitchen.
    “So how was it that the service started at the same time for us as the people on the station?” Allison pulled out one of the chairs at the table and sat down as Joseph rummaged in the fridge and freezer trying to decide what to cook.
    “We set our ship’s clock to the same time as the station. Planets generally use time zones so that there’s sunlight during the day, regardless of where on the planet you are.” Joseph decided tonight was a good night for spaghetti and meatballs, and pulled a bag of frozen meatballs out of the freezer. “Stations just pick something, usually by vote, and never change it. Ship owners can set whatever they want, but most often set it to match the town or station they use as home. It’s one of the advantages of living in space.”
    “Oh.” Allison laughed and ducked her head. “Well serves me right for not asking sooner. I thought you were still using the time from Nevarris for my sake.”
    Joseph laughed as well, digging out several pans. “Nope, time there just conveniently coincided with our normal clock, although not down to the minute. Would you fill that with water?” He gestured to one of the saucepans he’d set on the counter, and she rose to help.
    “Is your ‘home base’ on the same time as Nevarris then?” She retrieved the pan and walked to the sink.
    “No, it’s not. I think we were actually about fifteen minutes ahead of Nevarris’ daylight cycle when we landed, and we’re probably close to forty ahead now. Another hazard of planets is that none of them make a full rotation in exactly twenty-four hours. Planetside communities arrange their clocks to follow daylight, but stations and starports just use the standard twenty-four hours for convenience.”
    “Really? I didn’t even notice the difference.”
    “It was a small one, so it wasn’t much of a change from normal for you.” Joseph poured tomato sauce onto the meatballs and started them warming on the stove. “You would notice if you went back to Temorran in a couple months. You’ll notice at Couradeen too, because their clock is about five hours different from ours.”
    Allison groaned as she carried over the water. “Which will be a big adjustment if I stay there.”
    “Very,” Joseph agreed. He put that pan on the stove as well and threw a handful of spaghetti noodles into it, then gave Allison a questioning look. “Did you really want to talk to me about time differences, or did you have something else on your mind? It seems like you’ve been deep in thought since church this morning.”
    She laughed. “I have, I just didn’t want to launch right into it.” Her expression altered, regaining some of the intensity she’d displayed during the sermon. “I was going to ask about the ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ verse. Is that why you decided to help me?”
    “Yeah, it’s a good summary.”She gave him a puzzled look as he checked the pans and leaned on the counter. “Well, there were a lot of other factors involved in that decision, even though I made it quickly. I don’t think I consciously thought about that concept at the time, but it’s a fundamental part of how I see right and wrong.”
    Understanding dawned in her eyes as she pulled out a chair again. “Oh, I see what you’re saying. That wasn’t when I meant to ask about. I meant now. You and Tyrone are still going to a lot of trouble to help me.”
    “How do you mean?”
    “Well, most people would probably say you had done plenty by helping me escape from Terrence. More than enough, in fact. You’ve gone a lot further.”
    “By helping you get through Immigration and look for a job?”
    “Yeah, exactly. You and Tyrone already found me three or four places to try to find a job on Couradeen Station, and I haven’t even decided for sure whether I’m staying there. You’re putting a lot of work into helping me figure out my future.”
    “Then yeah, I guess that’s the underlying reason. When Tyrone or I say ‘it’s just the right thing to do,’ this is what we’re talking about. I’m guessing you caught what Pastor connected it to, that it’s what God did for us on the cross. God saved us by paying the price for all the wrong we do, and let me assure you Tyrone and I both do wrong from time to time. We try to emulate that by helping those around us when we can.
    “Of course there’s also the ‘what else could we do?’ argument. I guess it’s fair to say we didn’t have to help you with all that stuff, we could have told you to work it out yourself. We still would have had to play a part in it eventually though. We also couldn’t have just kicked you off the ship at Couradeen Station, that would be illegal if you didn’t have an entry visa yet. And now that you have one, we’re still not intending to do that.”
    “I think the way you and Tyrone have gone about everything makes it pretty clear you aren’t only doing it because you have to. I have siblings, I know what it sounds like when that’s the only motivation for something. Complaints, whining and impatient sighs haven’t made any appearances I can recall, let alone frequent ones.”
    “That’s true.” Joseph leaned back in his chair, rubbing his chin. “I think you’re understating what our responsibilities are in this. We took you out of the world you knew and we’re about to throw you into a whole different one, so I think we owe you a little more than just a ride. That said, we haven’t been unwilling to do any of those things. We’re happy to be helping you.”
    “Thanks,” Allison smiled. “I’m glad I haven’t just been a big pain in the neck.”
    “Not at all. For one thing, it was a great trip to have an extra hand on with that irrigation rigamarole. For another, you’ve had a remarkably good attitude about all of this. It’s a pleasure to help people who make the effort to help themselves. 
    “You haven’t been whining about your circumstances or lost in self-pity. Instead you’re putting in plenty of hard work trying to hit the ground running in the Teton Sector. On top of that, you’re still working on cleaning up the fallout from the Temorran Kindred messing around with your personal history.”
    Allison only shrugged, looking doubtful. “You gave me a chance to start over. I just want to make the best of it.”
    “Well, not everybody who gets a chance to start over is willing to put in the work to make the best of it. You are, and so when you need help it doesn’t feel like a burden to provide it.” Joseph began checking the food; the spaghetti was done, and the meatballs weren’t far behind. 
    “Anyway, we’re getting off point a little. If you want to talk about it more, we can. I know our synod has a congregation on Couradeen Station too, and you can talk to the pastor there if you decide that’s where you want to stay. He’ll be a better guide than me, I’m sure. They spend a lot of time studying to make sure they know what they’re talking about.”
    “Okay. Maybe after dinner? It looks like it’s pretty much done, I’ll grab some plates.” She stood and walked to the cabinets.
    “Or during dinner, if you want. Tyrone knows as much as I do. But I’ll leave that up to you.” He walked toward the dining room door. “I’ll go let him know the food is done.”

Published: April 1 2018

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