Author : Rick Tobin

“This one, it’s too close. Something’s wrong!” Taylor Hines tapped the green screen, yelling at Corus, as her brilliant, red-scaled hands clawed the communications panel.

“Ogira 6. Ogira 6. Back away point three apars from the dwarf star. Ogira, respond.” Static and deep-space warbles returned on the speaker.

A snarling, high-pitched response followed. “We do not take orders from two legged.”

Taylor and Corus studied the round screen depicting four hundred gigantic freighters manipulating magnetars toward one side of the galaxy’s center. The stellar tugboats pushed and poked dead stars to manipulate pulsating neutron stars, but if herded too close the magnetar could awaken the deceased, creating a fusion burst, destroying the wrangler’s ship.

“Ogira 6,” Corus repeated. “You must comply. Repeat…” She stopped. The green dot depicting the Peronian’s ship disappeared. The brown circle, the dwarf, turned red on screen, vaporizing two more ships in a nearby quadrant, leaving their packages adrift.

Taylor stared at Corus as water flowed from bulbous double eyes drooping down from the square face of the command ship’s leader.

“Now you know,” Corus whimpered, “Why it was important to find you. We cannot lose another hundred. Without enough magnetars to divert the angle of the black hole, our client’s race will perish…perhaps only surviving another thousand years.”

She returned her attention to the screen. There was no voice traffic. No need to mourn. Every pilot knew the risk, but not everyone believed the capabilities of a new crewmember from an unknown planet.

“You were recently chosen for your unusual skills of knowing. None of our captains have this understanding. You also fit our profile. You are the last of your kind, are you not?”

“I’m not sure,” Taylor replied, collapsing back in his high-backed chair. “My parents were abducted by a snake race from Earth, like thousands each year. Many were eaten, but most were enslaved. My parents were saved at a space station auction raided by the Kersan Kahn. Kahns attack slave-making races and free their captives—then eat the slavers. The scaly bastards didn’t see that coming.”

“So, you hate those with scales instead of your pitiful pale covering?”

“No, no Corus. It’s not like that. Your race was not like theirs. It’s what my parents experienced. There was no way back for us. I’ll perish alone out here since my parents died. I’ll never mate…never love.”

“So you must understand why they picked all of us—orphans of our races. Our kinds were either destroyed by wars or bad choices. Our employer’s wisdom will turn this devourer of solar systems just slightly away from their civilization. That will give them another million years to evolve, yet they will not be blamed for they cannot be tied to our work, and we have no home worlds left to be punished.”

“And the other worlds? The ones now lost too early because we adjusted the black hole?”

“It swallows a thousand stars daily. Millions of cultures disappear. Their time is over. So it is in every galaxy, on every planet. Our client’s superiority designed this adjustment. That wisdom and influence gives them the right to continue.” Corus persisted in her surveillance of the armada.

“And we, the movers of these dead stars, will we be the forgotten…the forever unloved?”

“No, Taylor Hines. Billions will recall our heroic names in story and song for millennia, while on our worlds we would have been mere shadows in time the moment our eyes grew cold. Everyone else has a history to live, but we, on this voyage, have a destiny.”

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