by George Schaade
The Soigné Voyage was the most extravagant spaceliner to
travel the galaxy. Eight hundred meters long with three thousand luxury
compartments and powered by four gigantic nuclear engines, the ship
sailed gracefully into and out of hyperspace. The spacecraft's imposing
size was dwarfed only by the notability of its passengers. Titans of
industry, renowned writers and artists, heads of state, distinguished
members of academia. It was where the old money opulent met the nouveau
riche; and they all clamored for passage on the Soigné Voyage.
When these elite ventured from their plush staterooms, they could
sample the cuisine of a hundred restaurants, browse a variety of posh
shops, attend preeminent theatre and opera productions, pamper their
bodies at spas, or just lose themselves in the stars while lounging on
the observation deck. Thousands of crewmembers and aides worked
constantly to indulge every whim of the ship's passengers. No request
was too much for the privileged few that sailed on the Soigné Voyage.
Fifty years ago the idyllic existence on the spaceliner came to
an abrupt end. Just as the ship emerged from hyperspace near the Vega
star, a series of explosions in the engines rocked the Soigné Voyage
and atomized a third of the spacecraft. It was only a flicker of light
in the infinite silence of space but it touched off an explosion of
controversy and mystery that has haunted the galaxy to this day. Nine
hundred twenty-three killed in an instant; many of them with names and
reputations that will be remembered throughout history, but one stands
out more than all the rest, a man without a reputation and without a
He was tall and slender with blonde hair and a strong chin. His
green eyes were frozen in a stare that some have described as
compassionate and understanding. Clasped tightly in his hand was a
heart-shaped pendant engraved with the words "Maximum Love", a popular
phrase fifty years ago that reflected one's love for another. Max, as
he came to be called, was found frozen in the mangled wreckage of the Soigné Voyage
tail section. Somehow his body survived the explosion and the sudden
vacuum of space and was perfectly preserved by the icy cold.
The other victims were quickly identified but not Max. He wasn't
on the passenger list; he wasn't a member of the crew. He had no
identification papers, his clothes gave no clues, and no one came
forward to claim his body; even his DNA was of no help. Max was a total
Today the body of the Soigné Voyage mystery man stands in
suspended animation in the central rotunda of the Rabal Vega Museum.
Along with many other objects salvaged from the disaster, Max is seen
by hundreds of people each day. They file past him and ponder his calm
expression, his enigmatic eyes, and the love pendant he clutches in his
hand. Who was he? Where did he come from? How did he get on the ship?
And who was his "Maximum Love?"
* * *
"Well, what do you think?" Tara leaned back in her chair and wrapped
her hands around her cup of tea. Her long dark hair fell far past her
shoulders, while shorter strands framed her olive-colored face. As she
sipped from her cup, Tara's almond eyes stayed focused on the man
across from her.
Geoff put the electronic pad on her desk and said, "It's a great
intro of the show. We can start with some file footage of the ship
traveling past the stars; then switch to some of the big wigs using the
luxuries inside. I'll get the graphics department to come up with a
special effects shot of the Soigné Voyage emerging from space and exploding."
Tara nodded in approval. Geoff wasn't the best holo director, but
Tara was too new in the business to be picky. None of this mattered to
her because she already knew this was going to be a sensational holo
"Then I see you walking through the museum," continued Geoff, "with
artifacts from the ship all around you. The camera follows you into the
rotunda, focuses on Max, and zooms in on his face."
"Sounds good," said Tara. She spun in her chair and poured herself
some more tea. "When you pick me up in the museum, I should be
continuing the opening narration."
Geoff shrugged. "Sure. But there is something about the intro that I
don't get. It seems to be focusing on Max. I thought this was supposed
to be about the fiftieth anniversary of the Soigné Voyage disaster."
Tara leaned forward onto her desk and gave a wry smile. "What if I
told you that this story is going to be bigger than the disaster?"
"What do you mean?" Geoff was intrigued.
Tara rested on her elbows and lowered her voice a click. "I know who Max is."
"What?" Geoff exclaimed. "Who? How?"
Tara popped up and quickly went to the other side of the desk where
she could be closer to Geoff. There was a sparkle of excitement in her
"Well, I don't exactly know who he is yet, but I will after tomorrow."
"Oh, Tara," sighed Geoff. "You didn't get hooked into believing one of those weird theories, did you?"
"No, no." Tara insisted. "Just listen to what happened."
Geoff leaned back in his chair with a skeptical look on his face.
"When the network gave me this assignment, I immediately started
doing some research. One of the first things I decided to do was a
computer search on Max's DNA."
Geoff chuckled. "That's been done hundreds of times with no results.
Besides, back then it wasn't mandatory to register your DNA."
"Twenty-three times," said Tara. "And the last time anyone tried was
fourteen years ago. I knew the chances of a match were small."
"More like non-existent," injected the director.
"Just listen, Geoff." Tara slid back onto the top of the desk.
"Normally it would take weeks to get access to the DNA Bureau's
database but I've got a friend there that was able to sneak me in for a
few hours with it. When I looked for a straight match, I came up
negative. So I revised the search to check for the closest matches. I
thought it might bring up a relative, but nothing."
Geoff gave her an I-told-you-so look.
"Then I expanded the search to include any medical database."
The director's brow furrowed. "Geez, any database? That'd take days."
"No, just three hours. But it was worth it. I got a match."
"You got a DNA match for Max?"
Tara smiled when she saw the excitement on Geoff's face. "No, but I
found Max's son." She tossed a long strand of her hair over her
shoulder. "It seems that Max's son had a liver cloned and replaced
three years ago. The match came from the clinic that did the procedure."
"Well, who is it?"
"Philip Conway, CEO of Quantum Technologies and on the board of
dozens of other companies." Tara paused to let Geoff appreciate the
size of the story.
"My, God." Geoff blinked a couple of times as it all sank in. "How come no one ever noticed this before?"
Leaning forward, Tara had wild electricity in her eyes and a big
smile. "That's where it really gets good. According to the public
records, Philip Conway is the son of Colonel Jason Conway and Margaret
Hanover-Conway. They were both on the Soigné Voyage. She
survived. He didn't. Nine months later Philip was born. I checked the
tabloids from the time and it seems Jason and Margaret's marriage was
on the rocks. I think Margaret and Max had an affair going. After the
birth Margaret used her money and influences to change the DNA records."
Tara stopped for a breath, and then continued her rapid fire account.
"Tomorrow I've got a private interview with Philip Conway. I'll give
him the facts and we'll see if he knows who his real father is or not.
Either way we've got a story that will rock the galaxy and once I..."
"Wait! Wait!" Geoff interrupted. "Slow down. Let me get this
straight." He thought for a moment. "You're saying that fifty years ago
Max somehow slipped past security to get on the Soigné Voyage
where he had an affair with Margaret Conway right under the nose of her
husband. When the explosion took place her husband died, Max was
frozen, and she survived to give birth to Philip Conway, one of the
most influential men in the universe. Is that right?"
Tara smiled and nodded.
Geoff laughed and said, "This is going to be a hell of a show."
* * *
It took Tara almost an hour to be cleared for her interview with
Philip Conway, but once it was done she found herself sitting in a
plush chair in a small, elegant study. As Tara surveyed the room, a
door opened and a tall, older gentleman entered.
"Good Morning, Miss Powell." Philip Conway crossed to his desk chair
and sat opposite Tara. He was impeccably dressed in a very expensive
suit and his light brown hair was neatly quaffed.
Tara quickly scanned his features for similarities to Max. Maybe the eyes. Definitely tall. A bit like his nose.
"Morning, Mr. Conway. Thank you for..."
"Please call me Philip." He leaned back in his chair. "I don't give
many interviews, Miss Powell, but I must say you're very persistent and
persuasive. I decided to do this to ensure that the image of my parents
isn't tarnished by misinformation or conjecture."
"I assure you the holo will be done tastefully and with complete
respect for your parents and all others involved." Tara took a recorder
from her purse and put it on the edge of the desk. "We just want to..."
"That won't work here," interrupted Conway.
"The recorder. It won't work in here. This is a null room. I'm afraid you'll have to conduct the interview the old fashion way."
Tara looked around the room. "Oh, uh." She rummaged through her purse and finally found a pad and pen.
"Now, what would you like to know?" asked Conway.
Tara cleared her throat and regained some composure. "Well, to begin with, how did your parents come to be on the flight?"
Conway folded his hands in his lap and stared at them, as he began
to recite a story he had given many times before. "My parents had
married a few years before, but my father's work had prevented them
from having any real time to themselves. So, once he had finished his
tour of duty in…" Abruptly, Conway stopped and turned to Tara. "This
isn't the kind of questions you wanted to ask, is it?"
Tara was at first taken back but glad to be relieved of the preliminary questions.
"You're right, Mr. Conway. But I'm not sure how to approach the issue."
"Just give me the short version, Miss Powell. You'll be surprised how quickly I can grasp the complex."
Tara took a breath; then got to the point. "I have reason to believe you are the son of Max...from the Soigné Voyage."
Conway didn't blink. "I see. And what makes you think that?"
Tara pulled a copy of the DNA match from her purse and handed it across the desk.
Conway leafed through the pages, focused on one, and sighed. "The liver clone." He frowned. "A silly mistake, but easily fixed."
"Then it's true," said Tara. "And you knew about it."
Conway again leaned back. "Yes. My mother told me all about it a
couple of years before she passed away." He turned away from Tara as
his thoughts went back in time. "Mother and Max met several months
before the Soigné Voyage trip." He paused a moment. "My parents
never had a lot of love for each other, probably because Dad was away
so much. Max filled that void for my mother."
Tara saw the rich, powerful man immersed in memories, but her own mind was racing with questions.
"Do you know his real name? Who is he?"
"His name is Benjamin Farley. You won't find any records on him. He
got rid of them. I don't know much about him myself. I don't think my
mother did either. But I do know she loved him very much."
"How could someone with no documentation get on the Soigné Voyage?"
Conway pulled his chair closer to the desk. A small grin appeared at the corner of his mouth.
"You know it's quite refreshing to talk to someone about this. But
we're getting into an area that will be very difficult for you to
"Try me, Mr. Conway," said Tara.
"Max... Benjamin... my real father had a special gift--an ability.
It was something in his genetic make-up, something he was evidently
Tara was confused. "I don't understand."
Conway became very serious and looked deep into Tara's eyes.
"Max could read people's minds. He could nudge the images in their
heads to see what he wanted them to see or get them to do what he
wanted them to do. And he could erase memories that he didn't want them
to have. That's how he got on the Soigné Voyage."
Tara couldn't find the words to respond. She was stunned. Was this man crazy or was it a clever ruse?
They stared at each other for a long time, and then Conway asked,
"Does anyone else know about the connection between Max and me?"
Tara quickly decided it was safer to lie. "No. Just me."
"What about your director Geoff? You didn't tell him yesterday in
your office?" There was surprise on Tara's face. "It's all right. Just
something else that's easily fixed."
As she looked at Conway, Tara felt herself being drawn deeper into
his gaze. Her pen slipped from her fingers but she didn't move.
Conway smiled broadly. "How? Well, Miss Powell, I am my father's son."
* * *
"Tonight we've looked at the myths, the rumors, the theories, and
most importantly, the facts surrounding the ill-fated flight of the Soigné Voyage."
Tara slowly strolled across the marble floor of the Vega Museum.
"We started with questions. What caused the explosion? Who were Max
and his 'Maximum Love'? Why did so many die and others live?"
She stopped in the central rotunda and the holo cameras moved in for a close-up.
"We've exposed the fiction and examined the theories, but in the end
we're left with the same questions. Questions that intrigue us but will
probably never be answered. After fifty years the Soigné Voyage retains its mysteries and it's those secrets that continue to fascinate us."
The holo cameras pan up to the face of Max.
"For History Review, I'm Tara Powell. Good night."
© 2013 George Schaade
Bio: George Schaade is a retired history teacher living in the Big
Thicket forest of East Texas. He's been an avid SF reader since he was
first introduced to the genre by Robert Heinlein's Have Spacesuit, Will
Travel. Although he occasionally ventures into fantasy or horror, his
true passion is writing science fiction for his wife, Cathy, and anyone
else that will listen. His publication credits include "Tough Negotiator" published in Anotherealm Magazine Sep. 2012, "Clothes Call" published in Strange Halloween 2012 by Whortleberry Press Sep. 2012, and "No Beginning, No End" published in Strange Lucky Mysteries 5 by Whortleberry Press March 2013 publication. His last Aphelion appearance was "China Express" in September, 2012.
E-mail: George Schaade
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