the series by J. GRACE PENNINGTON

Resolutions: A New Years Short Story

I suppose it was technically rather meaningless to celebrate New Years Day in space. We weren’t revolving around any stationary object, let alone a sun, so we had no year, really. Nothing even indicated day or night. Everything was just stars, on and forever, in every direction. The occasional nebula or black hole or star system, but never any indication that day, season, or year had ever changed.

There weren’t any ISA regulations about holidays, either. That meant that ship owners could decide whether or not to allow their vessels to have breaks to celebrate their favorite holidays. Mr. DeMille, the owner of the Surveyor, was not the kind of person to allow it.

But, as the Captain firmly noted, that did not forbid us from celebrating them on our own time or during work. And while we couldn’t observe every little greeting-card-ordained occasion that came along, the new year was something that made us all feel a bit sober, and a bit hopeful, and very contemplative.

We calculated our time by Earth’s Eastern Standard Time, since that was where the ISA headquarters were. Dinner was to be at twenty o’ clock sharp, with Almira making the traditional black-eyed-peas and ham, because she was both very traditional and a little superstitious.

It was half an hour until dinner when the Doctor and I finished up in sickbay. I vacuumed it clean, and he put away the last few supplies we were finished with.

“Dad?” I asked, pausing the vacuum.

He closed the cabinet doors and looked at me. “Yes?”

“Do you ever make New Year’s resolutions?”

He frowned, and leaned his elbow on a nearby tray. “Sometimes.”

“Are you going to this year?”

“I basically always make the same ones.” He closed the lid on the laundry chute. “To grow in wisdom, and kindness and all the fruits of the Spirit.”

I smiled. “Those are nice. But… what about specific ones? Any… concrete goals, or particular things you want to work on?”

He twisted his lips and thought for a moment. “Actually, there is one thing I want to work on next year.”

“What’s that?”

He turned away from me and spoke casually as he flipped off the monitor nearest to him. “Just that I thought I might try to be there for August a bit.”

I felt a broad smile come over my face. Letting go of the vacuum, I slipped over to him and hugged him tightly from behind. “Thanks, Dad.”

He grunted a little, but I felt him cover my hands with his for a moment. Then, “Run down and help Almira with the big dinner.”

“Yes sir.” Letting go, I hurried down to mess hall with a light heart.

I found Almira in the galley, her dark face wet with condensation from the steam as she bent over the pot of black-eyed-peas. Two of the kitchen helpers were buzzing around unpacking butter and scooping rice onto plates.

“Can I help?” I asked.

Almira turned to look at me, and smiled. “Hello Andi! Ellen just took some corn muffins out of the oven, if you could put them into baskets for the tables, that would be wonderful.”

“Okay.” Not bothering to find an apron to put on, I hurried to the pans of warm cornbread on the counter and began deftly lifting them out with a knife and dropping them into the little baskets.

I worked silently until Almira reached forward and turned the stove off, and leaned back for a moment, wiping her forehead with the corner of her apron.

“Almira?” I asked then.

“Yes, honey?”

“Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?”

She dabbed at her cheek with the flowered apron, and tilted her head. “I have a couple.”

I waited for her to tell me what they were, but she didn’t, so I asked. “What are they?”

She hesitated for a moment, then smiled at me. “I suppose they might sound a little old-fashioned, honey.”

“I like old-fashioned.”

She chuckled, then said seriously, in her rich, low voice, “Very well. I want to greet everyone who comes to the snack bar counter on my watch with a smile.” She gave me one as she spoke, and I grinned back delightedly. “And I want to read more. Didn’t read enough when I was young, and I want to make up for lost time.”

I leaned forward and hugged her, my fingers barely meeting around her back. She held me against her, and I knew she was smiling. “What about you, honey?”

I pulled back. “I don’t know yet.”

“Well, there’s still time.” Leaning back over the pot, she called, “In the meantime, get that bread out there!”

I grabbed up two baskets, and scurried to obey.


After dinner, the Captain asked a few of us into the Captain’s Lounge for drinks, and to see the old year pass away. The Doctor and I, Guilders, McMillan, Ralston, Whales, August, and Crash, who was visiting over the holidays. Almira had been invited, but she felt out of place at parties, and said she preferred to spend a quiet evening in her own room.

I didn’t drink any alcohol, and nor did August, so we had some juice. Guilders and the Doctor didn’t mind a little for special occasions, and the others had no qualms, so their glasses sparkled with champagne as they laughed and talked.

As we sipped our juice, a little away from the others, I asked August whether he had any resolutions.

He rubbed his forefinger in a circle around the brim of his glass. “A few.”

“Can you tell me what they are?”

“Well… most of them aren’t very specific.”

“Most of them?”

He looked up from his glass at last. “Well… I’d… I’d heard that sometimes people… read the whole Bible in a year. I thought I might try it, and see if I can.”

I felt the familiar smile spread over my face, and I wanted to throw my arms around him, but I reached out and squeezed his hand instead. “I think that’s a wonderful one.”

His cheeks reddened ever so slightly, and he looked pleased.

“What’s the somberness for?” came the cocky, high-spirited voice of Crash as he swung himself onto the barstool behind me. He raised his half-full glass in a toasting gesture, then took a sip.

“I don’t know, maybe because 2321 is about to begin and it will never be 2320 again?” I rolled my eyes and turned back towards August.

A year is a pretty small thing, all things considered,” Crash went on, completely ignoring my sarcasm. “Once you’ve seen thirty-four of them, you start to realize they’re pretty commonplace.”

“Nothing is commonplace,” I insisted. Then, not giving him a chance to go on, I asked “Since the new year is so unimportant to you, I don’t suppose you have any New Year’s resolutions?”

He sipped from his glass again. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that exactly. I have a few things in mind for the Alacrity in 2321. She and I are going to break the warp limit, and see what happens. And I have some tweaks planned for my landing suit–gonna be the first to successfully land on a 10G planet.”

August’s eyes widened, and I exclaimed “That’s impossible.”

“Improbable,” he grinned roguishly. “The problem is that no one’s ever really tried.”

With another sip from his cup he swung himself off the stool, and strode towards the Doctor.

August and I just looked at each other.

“Do you have any resolutions?” he asked at last.

“I’m not sure yet,” I admitted slowly. “I don’t really have any in mind.”

“Well, you’d better get some quickly,” came the Captain’s strong voice from behind me. “It’s only half an hour more until midnight.”

I swiveled around on the stool to see the Captain and Guilders standing there, drinks in hand, with Guilders even looking somewhat relaxed, as though he might be secretly enjoying himself.

“I’ll try,” I smiled. “So… do either of you have any?”

The Captain smiled, and rubbed his finger along his glass as he gathered his thoughts. “I really enjoy the tradition of making resolutions for the new year. Gets one in the frame of mind for making a fresh start, having another chance. The year is a blank slate… the question is, what will you write on it?”

I saw a quiet smile from Guilders, and knew that he was enjoying the Captain’s mellow, poetic mood as much as I was. It wasn’t often that a starship captain could relax.

“What are they, sir?” August asked softly, as respectful and polite as ever.

“This may sound a bit self-centered,” the Captain chuckled, “but I’m hoping to achieve a high enough rating this year to be added to the ISA Captains Board of Directors. I would have more influence. But with Mr. DeMille being… well, shall we say, the way he is, it will be very difficult.”

“I hope you can,” I encouraged.

“Thank you. I also want to track down a few more antique books to finish my collection of classics, but that’s just a personal hobby. Probably most of all, I want to be sure to listen to my crew. I know they have much to offer me.”

I smiled. The Captain turned to his friend and merely inquired, “Guilders?”

He replied without hesitation. “To obey every order without question unless the order will endanger any other person, and to never allow any of my personal desires or discontentments to get in the way of being of service to others.”

The Captain put an arm jovially around his first officer’s shoulders. “But you already do those things, Mr. Guilders!”

“Always room for improvement,” he said seriously.

I couldn’t help a laugh. “I know you’ll do it, Guilders. And best of luck to you, Captain.”

“Thank you, Miss Andi,” the helmsman said, and simultaneously the Captain said “Thank you, Andi!”

They moved away, and I was left with August again. He remained silent, and I propped my elbows on the counter, watched the clock above the bar tick down the seconds, and thought.

Everyone had New Year’s resolutions that meant so much to them. Deeply personal dreams, noble ideals, and worthy goals. And what did I have? Nothing. I had no deep dreams, nothing at all I wanted, except to be a good daughter to the Doctor, and do my work well, become closer to God, and just… basically, to do better and better. Just the things I always tried to do. Nothing new, or exciting.

I felt an arm pull around my shoulders, and turned to see the Doctor standing beside me. I reached up and touched his hand.

“Anything the matter?”

I shrugged a bit, feeling his arm press a bit more against my shoulders as I did so.

“What is it?”

“I guess just… I don’t have any nice, grand, New Year’s resolutions like everyone else.”

He pulled me a bit closer, and was silent for a moment. Then he asked, “What do you want out of this new year?”

I thought about it. “Nothing much. I just want… to be kinder, and work harder, and not be selfish, and love God more, and… grow every single day.”

I could hear the smile in his voice. “Then those are your resolutions.”

“But… they can’t be… measured,” I protested. “There’s no way to say I’ve achieved them, in the end of the year, because I can’t measure them.”

As the clock ticked away the last few seconds, he whispered, “Sometimes the best things can’t be measured.”

The final tick to midnight came, slipping us gently into 2321. I heard cheering, and the clinking of glasses behind us. But the Doctor just quietly kissed me on the temple, and said, “Happy New Year, Andi.”

I turned and put my arms around him. “Happy New Year, Dad.”

We were together. It was going to be a good year.