Author : George R. Shirer
There are three types of people who become FTL-pilots: crazies, masochists and sad sacks.
I’m the last.
At least, that’s what my boss would tell you. That I’m one of those sad bastards who can’t let go of the past. Then he’d probably tell you what a fine pilot I am because he doesn’t want to risk alienating a good FTL-pilot.
Today’s run is just a short hop, from New Mars to the colony on Weaver’s World. The cargo bay is jammed with stasis pods, loaded with replacement workers. It’ll take sixteen hours to get to Weaver’s World. That’s just long enough for a nice chat.
As soon as I’ve got clearance from traffic control, I flip the switch. All the hairs on the back of my hands stand on end as we transition to FTL-space.
Three hours into the flight, Grandma Peg appears. She doesn’t look like I remember her at the end, careworn and sick. This is grandma as a young woman, in her twenties, wearing her engineer’s coveralls, ready to kick ass and take names.
“Hello, Charlie,” she says, taking the copilot’s seat.
“Hello, Grandma. How are you?”
“Still dead. And yourself?”
“Still not dead,” I say, cheerfully.
She laughs and we settle into comfortable silence. After a little while, some of the others show up. My dad, who died in the Newt War, and my sister, Caroline, who bled out in the delivery room because of a faulty auto-doc.
They’re hungry for news of the living. Especially Caroline. She wants to know all about the daughter she died giving birth to.
“She’s thinking of becoming a pilot.”
My dead sister’s face lights up. “Really?”
“If she does, she won’t stay,” I warn. “She doesn’t believe in ghosts.”
Dad laughs. “Another rationalist. If I only knew then, what I know now.”
Lots of people don’t believe you can interact with the dead in FTL-space. This, despite the evidence to the contrary. Most of the doubters think ‘the dead’ are just some type of FTL-space life-form with telepathic abilities. None of the doubters have been able to explain why aliens would appear as our dead and I don’t believe it anyway.
At the halfway mark to Weaver’s World, Allison arrives. My wife looks as lovely as ever. The rest of the family fades away, to give us our privacy.
We talk. I tell her about my life and she tells me about her existence. You can’t touch the dead, so we can’t dance. Not properly. I still cue up the music and we shadow dance with each other, swaying back and forth.
At the deceleration point, a chime rings. I turn to the controls, but Allison calls my name and, smiling, takes my hand. Her fingers are warm and solid.
“Oh God,” I say. “When did it happen?”
“A few minutes ago,” she says.
“Does it matter?”
I decide it doesn’t. My dead wife takes my hand and we dance into eternity.
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