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Nothing but the Stars

By Thomas Walker All Rights Reserved ©

Action / Scifi

Prologue

I longed to be with my husband. Gregory, my mind repeated. Why can’t you be here with me? I tried to shake off the thoughts, bracing myself and moving forward. Cold sweat ran down my forehead. The sound of creaking metal filled the hallway, echoing out of the uncompromising darkness, the structure of the ship buckling all around. I shivered uncontrollably, edging slowly down the corridor, apprehension building with every step. It was hard to walk; the rail-gun I had appropriated from the forward outer hull, designed to clear small debris from the ship's path, was now digging into my collar bone, slung clumsily over my right shoulder. It dragged me off balance, adding to the aching pains already making themselves known across my body.

If only the test had been positive. I could have been at home with him. Three separate sessions of gene therapy, still no results. The first in over two centuries to be unsuccessful... the doctors considered me a positive challenge. "We've replaced every last cell", the doctor would say. I practically had an artificial womb. For forty years, since the turn of the twenty-ninth century, we had been trying. The first in two hundred years to fail in the oldest of endeavours. I wondered what the hell was wrong with me. Half the scientists in the entire Union wondered what the hell was wrong with me. I reflected on what was the sick irony of it all; Jolene doesn't even want children, yet she's physically perfect in every imaginable way. Here I was, trying for four decades straight. Damn Jolene, I thought to myself. Hapless woman, impossible in her feckless posturing. I didn't want to waste my time giving thought to her.

Something metallic clanged up ahead.

I pushed myself against the wall so hard I slammed my elbow. My left arm becoming a buzz of nerve signals, I fumbled to avoid dropping the gun. As soon as I was steady, I froze on the spot. There was no further sound. I was so close to the flight deck, yet it felt so far. I listened intently for what seemed like an hour. Still nothing. Then there was the faintest of taps, then another. It was enough.

They always caution against firing the deflector rail-guns in an atmosphere. Something about compression waves; how the heat of the bolt combined with its speed sets off a hypersonic wave front, a wall of high pressure air. I don't think the idea of discharging one in a confined space even crossed their minds. Before the bolt even hit its target I found myself back on the floor.

Recovering myself, I saw the damage at the end of the corridor. I had blown a hole clear through the ceiling, the bolt imbedding itself in a wall on the deck above. With a sudden coldness in my chest, I noticed the mechanical leg dangling through the aperture. It was mangled; bent out of shape and splayed open where the bolt had passed close by. Tentatively, aware of the chance of others, I approached the remains. At first glance it was purely mechanical; too smooth, too hard, too polished to be organic. But on closer inspection it was like no machine ever invented by any intelligence. There was something fundamentally wrong about its construction; it seemed to curve in all the worst ways. Where it had been blown open, the interior was just a softer version of the outside surface. No fluids, no visible components, and no sign of burning. I couldn't bring myself to climb up and see the rest of the thing. I could barely remain close to it. Besides, I had a message to send.

Gregory, I thought to myself. I could barely assemble the message in my mind. It would take weeks to reach the nearest relay station, if it got through to one at all, and months after that to reach him. It was the station it was really meant for. I hoped that if they found it, I'd be back with him in person. But if they didn't...

Find happiness, my love.

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