General Richardson stepped out of the car just outside the building. The first thing he noticed was the clear blue sky. Although a few dark clouds predicted that during the day the weather would change. He wasn’t concerned at all.
“Thanks Charlie, if you don’t mind I’ll need my other uniform ironed…I mean, I’m sorry I have to ask you, but you know my wife, she told me that I’d have to take care of it myself just before she kissed me goodbye this morning.”
The young lieutenant hid a smile, tiny but sincere, and promptly replied:
“Of course, sir. It is not a problem at all and by the way, if I may, sir…you are a very lucky man! I wish to find an amazing woman like Mrs. Richardson one day too.”
The general’s expression changed, and the poor subordinate immediately felt the pinch.
“Come on lieutenant…I’m kidding! I am sure you will and…yes indeed, I am!”
The car moved away, and General Robert Richardson remained there, simply staring at the six story grey building with the words “Air Force Space Command” mounted above the door in white letters almost three feet high.
He took out his wallet, opened it, and spent a few moments looking at his family portrait. He always had it with him, and he always did that before an important moment of his life.
A sigh came out when he thought of his two boys. Both already grown up men, and yet, still children for him. Then, another glance for his wife, and the picture was back where it belonged, in his wallet, in the left pocket of his jacket, just against his heart.
His hand went straight from his collar to the edge of his uniform, just to press it once more. Then another adjustment to his shirt cuffs, in order to allow a couple of inches of them to peep out of his jacket’s sleeve. At last, another look at his shoes, of course perfectly polished. Then, also part of this ritual of his, a touch on his military ribbons plate. And again, his mind wandered. This time he was back at the Air Force Academy, when his first commander pinned his first ribbon on his shirt.
It was summer, and it was in recognition of completing a survival course, and now twenty were stuck one next to the other. His hands caressed all of them one by one. Decorations, missions, all the most important moments of his long career were somehow recognized by those tiny, colorful pieces of cloth and metal. His face darkened for a moment, some of them also held the memory of the men his was in charge of. Men who respected him, admire him, and some, men who died under his command.
The corner of his eye shifted to another subject for a moment. Two teenagers, maybe the same age as his younger son, surely in love judging from the smiles were walking hand in hand. The general squeezed his eyes a little more, and he recognized the boy, he was a schoolmate of his son. Then other high schoolers came out of the building, evidently a tour of the base was in progress. The young boy bowed his head to greet the general, and the latter’s heart filled immediately of pride and strength. Those men were dead to allow this young boy to do precisely what he was doing in that moment; living a quiet, safe and free life.
The general shook his head. He’d never liked the way the new generations dressed, but this time it put a smile on his face, and he walked to the door.
Behind the door the last post he would ever command was awaiting him. Supposedly, a rewarding and quiet command. One that would allegedly award him with all he could imagine; but also the one that would change his fate, as well as the fates of everyone on the planet, forever.