Author : David Botticello
“One last bit of business for the day,” barked the ship’s loudspeakers, “I must to inform all crew and travelers that one of our esteemed passengers is a Sunsprite. Please take all necessary precautions,” the Captain’s voice trailed off before quickly adding, “with all due respect, of course.”
Fred, one of the few Korna out this far, had never met a Sunsprite before. They’re flame spirits—near-mythical creatures born on a world too enamored of its star’s corona, who wander the universe in search of new experiences. He supposed it wasn’t exactly odd, therefore, to meet one on a passenger shuttle. Still, it was a new experience for Fred. This Sunsprite—Edwina, she called herself—almost glowed with a terrifying reddish light that filtered through the metalforme cooling vents of her otherwise formfitting encounter suit.
Some races can tolerate a star’s heat for a short time, but not many. Sentient beings are fortunate that the universe is a vast and empty place, full of dark expanses to hide from the deadly radiation shed by the stars. But Sunsprites, they love the light. Even now, as in their primitive years, they bathe in their sun’s radiation for health and leisure.
First contact with the Sunsprites saw a Tellerian ambassador incinerated by a handshake. His Colarian manservant went into a coma for weeks from radiation poisoning just by standing in the same room. They’re fearsome, flighty beings. We leave them alone, when we can.
Still, Edwina was a lovely creature. She stayed mostly to her cabin, but a few times ventured forth in one of those isolating suits of theirs. She would gaze at the star simulations in the Navigation Lab or lounge before the great window—heavily shielded of course—of the Observation Bay. Fred was able to strike up a conversation. She smiled, chatting easily as she luxuriated in the faint light of the nearest star, a dull pinpoint against the black of space.
Well, one thing led to another and, after all, a Korna of Fred’s age could survive her radiation—for a short while, at least. Alone in Fred’s cabin, she stripped off her encounter suit while Fred gazed in awe, idly wondering how much of his life he was sacrificing for the experience. She shivered for an instant at the cold of the vessel against her skin, but soon began to slink around the room, waves of warmth wafting from her body. Even as heat filled the room, and Fred muffled a choking cough, he watched Edwina inspecting his belongings curiously. A mischievous twinkle rose to her eye. The creature picked up a Fred’s largest telerometer, specially alloyed against the heat of space-travel. She inhaled a deep breath. Fred saw it coming,—he’d always say so, at least—but how do you stop a being that lives in starlight? The device was already melting in her hand when her breath coursed over it, reducing its finely-tuned parts to an ugly slag. “Oh dear,” she sighed innocently, turning to him with a sly grin. He didn’t invite her back.
But to this day, when the drinks are flowing and there’s a crowd to hear, Fred’ll tell of his encounter with a Sunsprite. “They call themselves Oomoon. We call them Lightbathers. Fire elementals. Star-children,” he’ll start. Then like as not, Fred’ll tell you about their little home planet, legendary Earth, orbiting its sun unnaturally close for any normal life to spring up. Then he’ll shake his head, muttering. No creature should enjoy the stars that way.