Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

I’ve shipped many things since the day I left Oktoberfeld. Some legal, many dubious, a few contraband, and nineteen wanted beings. Technically, this is my twentieth.
The job came with some unusual aspects. On a ship like mine – one of the many ‘fireflies’ that flit about the universes delivering the stuff that everybeing needs at prices everybody can afford – a fully sigilled commission was unheard of. The metre-square piece of parchment with its ribbons and wax arrived in the hands of Raine Deckham himself. The ‘Rhamphorynchus’ was being chartered to bring his brother home.
Cargo that wants a view travels in the stateroom. It has a private access to the galley along with a huge starboard-facing window siding the lounge. About as serene as this spaceship gets, because little ships are never quiet.
Raine brought a case full of peripheral noise suppressors. I didn’t know you could get them that small. Consequently, my lounge is still and silent. Disturbingly so. His words carry clearly.
“Nearly home, Doone. Mama’s done the Hazrien lamb you love. Papa picked up Lurina at the ‘port. It’s going to be the first family gathering in twenty years.”
The commission also stated ‘no monitoring’, but this is my home as well as my ship, so I left one basic view-and-listen at floor level. I’m watching now. Can’t take my eyes off it, to be truthful.
There’s a handsome man in a blue and chrome tuxedo sitting on a titanium coffin, candlelit colours almost lost in silhouette against the brightness of the planet that rises across the view. His eyes shine in the light, tears falling as they have done ever since we dropped from transit space into the Deckham system.
“You’re going to love the bower Elspin and Christopher built for you, Doone. It looks out across the Parmadan Falls, set so the evening sun turns the mist to gold, the thing you always said you missed while out amongst the stars.”
Doone Deckham might never have been notorious if he hadn’t been a hero. War turned him into a fierce leader. It also taught him about his love of killing. After the war, he couldn’t stop. A hero who won every battle except the one with the psychopath that lived inside him. That battle was finally won two galaxies and at least fifty murders away, when a Shramni veteran killed Doone as Doone killed her.
“You can rest easy, brother. The hungry dark that stalked your dreams has laid down. No more nightmares, Doone. There’ll always be abeyance candles lit.”
That explains the candles! A naked flame requirement that nearly drove Eddy, my systems tech, round the twist coding exceptions into our watch routines.
“There are no spirits of vengeance to hunt your soul, Doone. Mama wouldn’t have it. She insisted we handle all the rites.”
Which explains why the Deckhams have always paid death dues for every victim in full measure and without attempt at mitigation.
The orbit alarm chirps quietly throughout the Rhamphorynchus.
He pats the coffin.
“Rest ye, son of Deckham. The skies of home will bring renewal.”
With that, Raine stands up. As he wipes his eyes and turns away from the coffin, I catch his whispered words.
“Sleep well, little brother.”