"Shadows of the Future"
The newsvids announced that Enterprise had just entered spacedock. It had been over a year since any Starfleet ships had returned to Earth, so the media was having a field day. The young reporter introduced some captain to explain the benefits of the upgraded sensors.
Stuart Reed hit the power button, and the screen went black. Those Starfleet types could go on all day about space, but he wasn’t buying it. All the effort people put in, and what had space exploration gotten them so far? A bloody lot of trouble, that was what. He didn’t want to be misunderstood: he was glad Paxton’s arse was in jail. Besides, Stuart considered himself a student of history, and groups like that never turned out well. Nonetheless, he could see why some people were attracted to the message of Terra Prime. Space exploration and aliens hadn’t proven to be much of an advantage.
For reasons entirely beyond his comprehension, his only son failed to see that. Stuart had tried to raise him to be sensible and traditional, values that were fast being discarded. A respectable career in the Royal Navy was what he really wanted for Malcolm – with his talent, he could’ve done very well. Still, there were other decent professions Stuart would have found fairly agreeable. What was wrong with archaeology, law, or even computers? Malcolm had always done well with computers, and some people had to be able to figure the infernal contraptions out.
Malcolm would have none of it. He positively insisted on joining Starfleet. “The days when fathers could choose their sons’ careers ended even before the Navy lost its utility,” he’d coolly informed Stuart when his Starfleet application was accepted.
It had worked out for him so far, although Stuart would never admit it. Despite choosing his career daftly, Malcolm was making a name for himself. Three months before, Stuart had been buying the New Historian and noticed his son and Commander Tucker on the cover of Technology Review. (Idly he wondered why his son hadn’t been promoted in quite some time.) He bought the magazine and tried to slide it in under his stack of the New Historian, but it was a slightly different width, and Mary had noticed with a smile. She didn’t say anything, just smiled.
Stuart scowled. It was easier to be angry with his son for running away from tradition and common sense. Finding himself proud of Malcolm’s accomplishments did not fit. He was not a man of emotion, but even he had to admit, to himself only of course, that he was proud of his son. His own pride ran deep, though, and he was far too proud and stubborn to admit that he, Stuart, had been wrong.
Besides, Malcolm might be doing well enough for himself, but Starfleet was going nowhere fast. It seemed like every other week they’d made a new enemy. No, Starfleet was not at all a success in Stuart’s book. It brought a whole new meaning to the phrase, “with their heads in the clouds.” In, above, the idea was the same. Humanity had finally managed to get things right (for the better part) on Earth. Why leave? Space travel was a novelty, something that interesting some people but ultimately had little practical use.
With an imperceptible shake of his head, Stuart returned to his work. Shortly after he retired, Mary gave him a choice: either he found a hobby, or he bought a second house to skulk around in. He’d opted for the former, and that was how his life-long interest in tradition had become an in-progress genealogical record. He spent hours tracking down distant ancestors and gleaning information about their lives from old records.
Currently he was reading the material available on Colonel Nathan Reed, a veteran of the Boer Wars who was later decorated for his service in the First World War. While Nathan served in the army, not the navy, it gladdened Stuart’s heart to find military service amongst his ancestors. A memo Colonel Reed had written to one Lieutenant General Brownfield before “the war to end all wars” was cited in an obscure twentieth-century book called Sky Seekers: The Early Military History of Airplanes. Stuart read the passage:
…Therefore, having reviewed the reports and finding the evidence insubstantial, I could not in good conscience recommend the development of aeroplanes for military use… it is far wiser to concentrate on the land and the sea… proponents of aeroplane technology have almost invariably brought harm upon themselves and others. These machines may catch the fancy of young men, but they lack practical function.
The passage was followed by a footnote. Stuart read the small print at the bottom of the page:
Reed’s son Andrew disagreed, and championed the military use of planes. During World War II he flew for the Royal Air Force and was decorated for valor during the Battle of Britain.
Stuart was descended from Nathan Reed’s son Edward, so he had not known about Andrew. He was struck by an uncanny similarity to his own life. Was it possible that he was wrong?
He contemplated the question. It was not in his nature to question himself, but Stuart liked to consider himself a thoughtful student of history. Historians are stewards of the past, and the reason their job is required is because the past relates to the present. He stared at the quote from his ancestor for several moments before flicking on the newsvid.
The left half of the screen showed images from the voyages of Enterprise, while the right half showed a middle-aged woman with the caption ‘Adm. Cynthia Black.’ He ignored the admiral’s interview and looked at the pictures. While an appreciation for beauty was not something Stuart Reed was known for, he grudgingly admitted to himself that the images were nice.
He certainly harbored doubts about Starfleet and the whole idea of space exploration, and he didn’t expect he’d ever understand his son’s career choice. Nevertheless, a Reed had been wrong about new technology before. It was just within the realm of possibility that he was mistaken as well.
Having come to this conclusion, he strode out into the living room, where Mary was intently working on a crossword puzzle, the background noise of the newsvid just audible over her murmurs as she attempted to work out the correct words.
Stuart cleared his throat. “Mary?” When she looked up from her crossword, he continued. “Do we have any plans for Tuesday night?”
“No,” she replied, “Why do you ask?”
“Good. We can go to San Francisco.”
He hadn’t seen her smile grow so wide in years. “I’d better call him,” she offered knowingly. “Madeline as well.”
Stuart nodded and went back to his den.
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