When you’ve been studying the ocean for so long, it’s hard to remember what it’s like above it.
Photo by Kasey McCoy on Unsplash This is yet another prompt from the lovely Space Wrecks bot on Twitter. Its an automated bot that generates a short blurb inspired by … Continue reading One Last Journey
Photo by John Fowler on Unsplash The first paragraph of this story was generated by Space Wrecks. Its an automated bot that generates snippets inspired by Stewart Cowley’s Terran Trade … Continue reading The Pithian Gamble
Floating. Always floating; bobbing along the interstellar currents, cold winds from nearby stars buffeting them, breezing over their skin like a hot wash of fire, a blast furnace’s bellowing voice in the infinite dark. It was deep and rumbling, playing the same three low notes over, and over and-
The low beeping dug through Hara’s cryostasis like a needle, a strange mechanical noise in that murky fluid void-dream. It made them think about gutting the console again, but they knew they’d have to fix it afterwards. They managed a raspy mutter, palming the comms panel clumsily as they sat up against the pod, trying to breathe fire through aching lungs.
Ferrence’s familiar voice buzzed through Hara’s skull. Too loud. They tooled down the volume and asked for a repeat, eyes struggling to refocus against the harsh screen light.
<Update on Destra-Hologasi system for you: 43 stellar bodies, multiple gas giants. Trinary star system.>
That last bit interested Hara. “And what’s the min/max distance for that trinary?”
They were all here for the same reason. Not just music; that was implied by the posters, the homemade shirts, the thin station hallway packed full of stitched-together styles and clashing hairdos. Most of these people were miners, haulers, maintenance workers – the ones that did the work so others could live. Even with the small boosts to pay last quarter, these were thankless tasks, and the crowd was clearly a sea of comrades in arms, all frustrated beyond a doubt and looking for an out.
A conversation with a stranger in the middle of the night.
The rain was heavy with purpose, landing with resounding thuds all around them; Taks thought it might be trying to cleanse the ground of battle, to remove old sins from the soil and soak the earth with hope instead. Maybe it was sick of the old world’s scars and wanted to wipe the slate clean.
With what had happened here, that was a losing battle in itself.
“Taks, damnit!” Marta bellowed as the tarp Taks had been holding slipped and flapped in the wind. “Hold it steady! Hog’s teeth, I don’t want to spend all night at it!”
Their mind was wandering again. Taks half-yelled an apology that was eaten by the storm and groped in the dim light for the tarp’s edge. Their fingers connected with the Orb’s eerie metallic surface, centuries of detail exposed to the brutal elements; it still felt hot even after so much time. They helped Marta stake down the rest of the tarp in embarrassed silence, covering the gaping hole in the Orb’s top; of the field’s choices, this one had the most intact structure, which wasn’t saying much.
Earth isn’t gone. But sometimes, we wish it was.
When all this started, we’d just achieved long-range spaceflight with the Cleave drives – my great-grandparents were on one of the first cruisers out to the Alpha Centauri system. Kind of a big deal, getting to escape the solar system like that. We’d managed to colonize a few worlds in our backyard, but ideal they weren’t; if we could get our ships to cut through interstellar space the way they did in our neighbourhood, we might have a better chance at finding a liveable world.
Terraforming? That’s a fool’s errand. Best you can hope for is to change a series of icy moons into windy dustballs that snow like the devil’s dandruff, or make a bunch of dry rocks into slightly moist ones. ‘Course, other folks in the galaxy might have other notions, but they weren’t around then; it was just humans trying to find a new home in the badlands.
“What do you mean, ‘your bones are no good here’?” Festree said, confused. “These are third-age roach skeletons, they’re worth at least a few old wyrds.”
The creature sat idle in its chair by the fireplace, fingers aglow with the last vestiges of its cigar. How long had it been smoking that, I wondered, as I rose to stoke the fire – not for the first time that evening, I realized. The woodpile had been steadily consumed, greedy flames lighting the dim parlour with their grim energy; when had the sun gone down?
“Ah, but it is no matter.” Said the creature, all horn and tooth and skin of scale, shifting forms in the twisting shadows. It took me a moment to understand that it had been speaking aloud to itself, and I had, what, dozed off? In the dim light, its shape was gigantic and diminutive all at once, a thing of true unknowing. Something beyond my ken. It continued, “I’ve another here. Pass me the matches, would you?”