Author : Mark Ehler
Lt. Bernard sat, arms crossed, in a 15,000,000 credit coffin. The nuclear battery shorted out and now, without engine power, his ship was just another object in space. Interceptor Pilot Protocol dictated that he stay with his vessel and wait for a patrol to pick him up. That might have worked for downed pilots centuries ago, back on that sandbox called Earth; but here, in the vastness of space – rescue was slim to nil. Bernard slammed the fists of his environment suit into the control panel and called it a “…lousy floating space cow.”
Those who knew him, well, didn’t. Bernard never went out while at the academy because he had seen what happens to students caught drinking, similar reasons kept him from going out with the other pilots when his ship was docked. His whole life was spent with strict adherence to the rules; rules were important, they were the standard and criteria by which he was judged by his superiors. Certainly not superfluous things like flair or creativity. If it weren’t for his strict observance of the rules he might never have been chosen for flight school, might never have been granted the honor of serving at his station, might never have been selected for this mission. Now the rules told him to sit and wait.
The more he thought, the less sense it made. His whole life had built up to this day, this mission; but now, like a novel with a great back story that only fizzled as it progressed, it was over. At least he had a good view of the cosmos… Bernard chuckled to himself. You see, there is this saying that claims some people don’t truly live until they are on their death bed and Bernard finally understood what it meant. Now that his rules had been shattered he remembered why he chose to be an interceptor pilot. All the things his wealth and pedigree could have given him and he chose the life of a soldier, for it was the best way to follow his dream. Every night as a kid in his luxury apartment he dreamt of the stars. The void of the cosmos and the universe’s array of colors in subtle pinhole form was such a stark contrast to the orbital colonies of Mars. With his hand on the surface of the inactive display he pushed himself forward until the dome of his helmet connected with the glass of his cockpit, then he sat and stared in bewilderment. It was indeed ironic to him; all this time he spent reaching for the stars and this was the first time he had really stopped to admire their beauty.
He lifted the emergency eject and the cockpit sprung right open, the atmosphere in his ship rushed out and he was now the closest he had ever been to the stars. Here he lingered clinging to the wing of his downed bird, not a thought for the rules as he found the brightest star in sight. It was a nearby red giant and it too was close to the end of its life where it would explode into a brilliant super nova; such an explosion of vividly colored gas simply makes it the most powerful act of nature in the universe. He had let go of the ship and started drifting towards the giant. He could stretch out as big as possible without fear of touching another human and he could finally look all around him without the walls of mankind.
Bernard curled up as the cold seeped through his suit, taking one long look at his star. As he closed his eyes and drifted into one last sleep a smile crossed his face; satisfaction that he had finally achieved peace swelled from his heart like a tiny explosion in space.
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